The March 19th Virtual Transform Westside Summit featured Westside Future Fund (WFF) partner Goodwill of North Georgia (GNG), highlighting GNG’s new store and Workforce Development Center at 2160 Metropolitan Parkway set to open in the fall of 2021. The summit also featured WFF partner Invest Atlanta and its efforts to support Westside entrepreneurs through the end of the pandemic and beyond. Moderated by WFF President & CEO, John Ahmann, the panel included: Keith Parker, CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia; Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President & CEO of Invest Atlanta; Jenny Taylor, Vice President of Career Services at Goodwill of North Georgia; and Ebony Ford, TechBridge Program Participant.
The show opened with an exciting new format featuring Westside community members as rotating cohosts. Joining WFF Correspondent Benjamin Earley was Booker T. Washington High School’s Atlanta Alumni Association President, Valerie Williams.
Williams, a resident and proud Washington cluster parent and advocate, showed up in true BTW fashion, draped in Bulldogs gear down to her socks! Williams wears many hats in service to the Westside community, including being a member of the Washington Cluster Advocacy Group (WCAG) and Westside Community Alliance. Read more on Ms. Williams in the March 19th Summit Bulletin.
Keith Parker kicked off the panel discussion with an introduction to GNG’s vision for its soon-to-open Metropolitan Parkway location. The 38,000 sq. ft. location will look to add to GNG’s success of helping more than 27,000 residents per year find employment. Parker, whose acclaimed 5 year tenure as CEO of MARTA helped revitalize the once beleaguered transit system, is well equipped to lead the way.
A believer in the “teach a person to fish” mindset, Parker underscored that GNG’s success lies in its invaluable ability to meet people where they are.
We’re a judgement free zone,” said Parker. Speaking about the rewarding feeling that comes with each success story, he said, “You’re right there. You feel your impact every single day. They’re all fulfulling, all wonderful.”
Dr. Eloisa Klementich joined the conversation with an announcement that Invest Atlanta will launch its own workforce development program in July of 2021. Emphasizing the need to create multiple pathways for Atlanta residents to climb the economic ladder, Dr. Klementich expressed excitement in partnering with GNG to help individuals find “a first job, a better job, and then a career.”
The partnership between GNG and Invest Atlanta offers residents a unique and powerful pool of resources to meet their professional goals. Connecting aspiring entreprenuers to crucial sources of funding, education, and relief, Invest Atlanta continues to play an integral role in helping to lift Westside residents out of poverty.
Echoing the importance of meeting people where they are, Jenny Taylor shared an inspiring story illustrating how GNG is committed to “lifting people up, one job at a time.” Recounting the organization’s experience with a nonverbal man named Donny living with acute ADHD, Taylor told of how GNG was able to connect with Donny in a meaningful way and ultimately help him secure employment.
Taylor offered a quote from GNG Founder, Reverend Edgar J. Helms, which rests at the core of the organization’s work and culture:
Be dissatisfied with your work until every person in your community has an opportunity to develop to their fullest usefulness and enjoy a maximum of abundant living.”
Rounding out the panel discussion was a familiar face for regular summit attendees. Ebony Ford, a Westside resident and Techbridge participant, offered her own testimonial of GNG’s impact in the community.
Currently working in IT for the State of Georgia, Ford shared the story of her introduction to and progression through GNG’s network to her current role as she continues to hone her programming skills. Now a vocal advocate for many community-based programs, philanthropic projects, and resident retention, Ford emphasized that were it not for “taking care of home first” and being able to find stability, she would not be able to contribute to the Westside community to the same degree. She encouraged residents to get to know the programs that are already at their disposal, adding, “…we truly do have opportunities in this part of the city. They are there.”
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