Goodwill and The Salvation Army Join Forces in Macon, Georgia

By: Brad Rowland

The Salvation Army is partnering with Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia, Inc. (GIMG) and Helms Career Education on a first-of-its kind endeavor in Macon, Georgia. The organizations are joining forces in their mission to lift individuals out of poverty and homelessness by breaking down systematic barriers to employment and opening access to meaningful work opportunities.

“We firmly believe in the transformative power of education and employment to break the cycle of homelessness. This collaboration with Goodwill of Middle Georgia enables us to offer not only immediate relief but also long-term solutions for individuals actively seeking to rebuild their lives,” said Sergeant Austin Sturdivant, corps administrator. “You see so many individuals that are coming from point A to point B trying to go from homelessness to stability. This gives an opportunity for them to really get on their feet in a great way.”

“This program is the first of its kind across the country,” said Leah Pontoni, a senior vice president of career development with GIMG. “It offers hands-on training and even job placements. This is also the first formal partnership that we know of between Goodwill and The Salvation Army, and both of our organizations are so strong and do so much positive work in the community that it only makes sense for us to come together and leverage the strengths and resources we both have.”

Helms Career Education, an arm of GIMG, offers programs and certifications in the fields of business and technology, health services, trade work, retail, and hospitality. Comparable to a career- driven trade institution, Helms offers the majority of its certification classes over six-to-eight weeks, with individuals provided with fast-track employment opportunities that are both specialized and in high demand in the current workforce landscape.

Latresa White, The Salvation Army’s social services director in Macon, worked closely with Helms staff at surrounding job fairs in the Macon area. That relationship blossomed as the two sides discussed ways to bridge the gap for people seeking life-changing career opportunities.

“Once the door seemed to be open, she took it and ran with it,” Sergeant Sturdivant said. “We’re grateful.”

Classes are offered free of charge to qualifying individuals, with specific programs focusing on administrative and office skills, EKG technician training, forklift operation and safety, highway flagger and construction safety, customer service and sales, food safety, retail industry fundamentals, and more. These classes are both practical and vital for individuals to gain experience and proceed toward sustainable career options.

“This partnership not only can affect the lives of each of our guests while they are in our program, but also provide them with life-altering skills to carry them the rest of their lives,” said Sergeant Sturdivant. “Not to mention, this can open doors nationwide for The Salvation Army and Goodwill to work together to help those who need us most in our communities.”

James K. Stiff, President and CEO of GIMG, indicates that the goal of the organizational alliance is to “connect with individuals in our communities who are reaching out for help to build a better life,” noting that “The Salvation Army is a trusted and effective community service partner that meets immediate needs but also understands the power of education and employment to stop the cycle of homelessness.” Stiff also notes that the two organizations share the desire to “strengthen our communities by giving our neighbors the hand up they need to succeed.”

As with any Salvation Army initiative, the overarching focus is not only helping people succeed in practical terms but doing so while focusing on the soul-saving mission.

“I want people to know that the holistic approach to sustainability is important for the success of those who come to us seeking shelter and with physical needs,” Sergeant Sturdivant said. “First and foremost, connecting them with Jesus Christ is something that will sustain them eternally, and we also want to use every resource and collaboration available, because it takes a village to help a village.”