Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA is an example of going from welfare to “work fare,” said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah.
Kingston briefly toured the Goodwill campus in west Augusta on Monday. It includes a recently-opened culinary school serving a restaurant and a convention hall.
Kingston and seven others will be on the May 20 primary ballot, running to replace Saxby Chambliss, who is not seeking re-election.
“The leadership brought on by Goodwill here will probably become a national model,” he said. “What they are doing is what the government tries to do, but does not do very effectively. Goodwill is filling a void.”
Jim Stiff, the executive director of the Goodwill territory covering Augusta, Aiken and Macon, said Helms College is on its fifth class since starting in 2012. It offers experience that helps the straight A student all the way to those that need more hands-on help.
“In culinary arts, you grow to be more like a family the longer you work next to somebody,” said Jay Stancill, culinary arts director. “They all just meld together and students tutor other students that need it.”
Kingston said Goodwill is an answer to the question of how to help people who want to climb the economic ladder.
Stiff said Goodwill has paperwork filed to offer associate’s degrees in addition to its diploma and certificate programs. They hope that will start happening by fall.
“So we expect students to come back once we've got the associate’s degree approved,” Stiff said.
Helms College has room for 300 students and classes are offered three times a day.
Stiff said the campus is still growing. The space once occupied by Weinberger's Furniture is earmarked to become a business and health school once state regulatory hurdles are met.
He said there will be a $5 million fundraising campaign at that time. That would make the campus a $20 million investment. The shopping center also has a traditional Goodwill store with a Job Connection and a bookstore.