Goodwill Industries of Southern Rivers continues to reinvent itself
Sep 17, 2012 (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Lydia Morris didn't expect to be using the job retraining services of a Columbus-based nonprofit organization.
Now, the disabled Army veteran is glad she found Goodwill Industries Southern Rivers to help her transition into a different career.
"This is very important," Morris said. "It is helping me deal with my disability."
Morris, a former Army cargo specialist, is now being trained to work in a call center.
She is a perfect example of the type of person Goodwill is training as the organization continues to reinvent itself under the direction of President and Chief Executive Officer Jane P. Nichols.
Last week, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers announced an aggressive expansion of its job training and retail/donation centers in its two-state, 50-county coverage area.
The Columbus-based nonprofit organization will add five new retail stores and used merchandise donation centers; four new career service centers that offer clients and potential employers access to computers, tax filing help and job placement services; and one new training center, Nichols announced.
The expansion will allow Goodwill to double the number of people it helps in the Columbus center. Currently 200 people are training for vocations in call centers, fast food restaurants and the hospitality industry. The organization partners with local companies like McDonald's and Callaway Gardens.
The area Goodwill agency, which has an annual budget of $20.2 million, employs about 460 people. The expansion will add 150 new jobs by the end of next summer, Nichols said.
The agency's service area stretches from Auburn-Opelika in east Alabama to east of Valdosta and from Carrollton to the Florida state line.
In 2003, Nichols began to reshape the organization, closing half of the retail centers and looking to maximize revenue. Last year, a strategic plan put the organization's direction into clear focus, Nichols said.
"This plan called for two things: One, double the people served, placed and revenues; two, create operating efficiencies," she said. "We were successful in both areas."
Consider the changes from 2003 to 2011:
--The people served grew from 417 to 26,447.
--The number of locations providing services grew from three to seven.
--Gross revenues grew from $9.4 million to $18.6 million. This year, Goodwill is on target to generate $20.2 million in gross revenues.
--The reduced number of retail centers have gone from $143,000 in revenue in 2003 to $1.782 million last year and the projection of more than $2.2 million this year.
One of the services that Goodwill has added is free income tax preparation for families with a household income of less than $50,000. This VITA tax services, which is a partnership with the IRS, served almost 2,000 low- to moderate-income residents.
Nearly $3 million in tax refunds were generated by the service.
There will be upcoming changes that Goodwill donors, customers and clients will see.
Two of the new retail stores will be in Columbus. One in Cross Country Plaza is scheduled to open in December and one in Midland off J.R. Allen Parkway is scheduled to open in April of next year. New stores will open in Carrollton in March 2013, Newnan in May 2013 and Phenix City off U.S. 280 next summer.
All of the retail stores will take donations of clothing and other items.
There will be service centers attached to the Midland, Phenix City, Carrollton and Newnan stores. Those service centers cater to employers and those looking for jobs.
In addition to the stores and service centers, a workforce training and development center will open in Valdosta, where there is a retail store and service center.
There will also be an expansion of the current job training center in Columbus, which is located at 2601 Cross Country Drive.
With the changes in place, Goodwill has set its sights on 2016, where aggressive goals include:
--To increase the number of people served from 27,000 to 37,000.
--To increase the number of people placed from 3,400 to 5,200.
--To increase the VITA income tax growth to $7 million.
--To increase gross revenues from $20.2 million to $39.8 million.
For Morris, who was forced into disability with knee and wrist injuries, she is just thankful she found the job retraining program after moving to Columbus from Oklahoma.
"I think this is the best kept secret in Columbus," she said. "I had no idea it was here. But it has been very important for me."
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