Augusta Goodwill trade school to focus on skills, jobs

Federal funding will help launch Augusta project

Goodwill Industries will soon launch an Augusta campus of its trade school, which pairs classroom learning with hands-on experience.


Dubbed Helms College after Goodwill founder Edgar Helms, the school will focus on helping people learn job skills and placing them in jobs after training.

The classes include customer service, medical billing and construction, said Meredith Stiff, the executive director of Goodwill Works Foundation.

Part of the funding for the new project will come from more than $500,000 in federal money designated for veterans hunting for work and housing.

The $623,000 intended for this area is the only designation in Georgia out of nearly $60 million in grants spread out over 40 states and the District of Columbia. It will be split among three Augusta groups that have already laid the foundation for helping veterans: the CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority, Goodwill Industries and Augusta Warrior Project, formerly the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project.

"It's very exciting," said Lynda Suarez, the resource development coordinator for the CSRA EOA. "Each of us will work within our strengths."

Goodwill, for instance, will amplify its work finding jobs for veterans. In the past five years, Goodwill in Augusta has placed 5,200 people into jobs, creating about $126 million in purchasing power, according to Stiff.

Housing veterans is important, but veterans also need the jobs to maintain their living situation, Stiff said. Some veterans might already have viable skills, but a war injury might prevent them from returning to their old job. For instance, a former roofer might no longer be able to climb a ladder because of an amputation.

Instead, Goodwill will assess and find what alternate skills the veteran possesses, Stiff said.

Augusta Warrior Project will assist veterans with finding and acquiring the government services they still require, said Jim Lorraine, its executive director.

One of the challenges Lorraine experiences is finding veterans returning home from duty. There are a lot of veterans with needs, but not enough publicity on where they can turn for help, he said.

A portion of the grant money will be dedicated to marketing and advertising to promote the combined services of the three organizations.

Lorraine uses the analogy of baking a pie: It's not done one slice at a time, but as a whole.

"We're dependent on each other," he said.