Goodwill Industries celebrated 15 years in the Augusta area on Thursday, and company reports indicate its work is far from finished.
"We've already helped 6,000 unemployed get jobs," said James Stiff, the president and CEO for Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA. "That was all because of the donations from our community."
Goodwill provides a self-sustaining cycle of donations, retail sales and job training through their stores and Job Connection locations.
"When you donate and shop at Goodwill, your dollars go directly back into helping our community," said former Augusta mayor Larry Sconyers, addressing the anniversary crowd at the Goodwill on Peach Orchard Road.
The Peach Orchard store was the organization's first in the area when it came to Augusta in 1996. The facility was recently renovated.
Goodwill is raising funds for its Helms Career Institute. The center would house the first licensed and accredited career college opened by Goodwill.
So far, the organization has raised $4.2 million for an expansion project that involved a new retail store, donation drop off, Job Connection and coffee shop, which opened in October on Furys Ferry Road in Martinez.
Almost $3 million is still needed, Stiff said, to finish the campus and construct the institute.
Stiff is so confident the Helms Career Institute will come together that he has volunteered for the yet-unbuilt center to host the Goodwill Industries International annual meeting in 2013.
Stiff said the idea is to provide jobless people with skills that make them more likely to find and keep higher-paying jobs.
"You can't get out of poverty if you have a minimum-wage job your entire life," he said.
Along with classes and training, the Helms Career Institute would provide mentors for each student, opportunities to get on-the-job experiential training and a seamless transition to the job market through the Job Connection.