Learning and exploring under the sea at the Georgia Aquarium

Good Works Show BlogAtlanta may be landlocked, but that hasn’t stopped the city from being the home to the largest aquarium in the United States. With more than a hundred thousand animals in ten million gallons of water, the aquarium has been visitors and aquatic-enthusiasts since its opening in 2005.

The aquarium offers a little something for everyone, with current exhibits featuring beluga whales, puffins and seabirds, dolphins, and tropical animals. It’s also the only place outside of Asia that keeps whale sharks.

Providing visitors the opportunity to see rare and unique creatures is a priority for the institution.

“We serve a community that may never have an opportunity to see a beluga whale or whale shark,” said Joe Handy, President and COO of the aquarium. “This gives us an opportunity to highlight these majestic animals and show the world and all of our visitors how beautiful these animals are.”

“It’s very difficult to be inspired if you’re not exposed,” Handy added. “If you have never seen a beluga whale, then you may never have an appreciation for the species, and you may never want to care for the species. We help shape your view and your experience and your interaction with these majestic animals.”

The aquarium offers an immersive experience that allows guests to get a firsthand look at the animals and their habitats. Set up like the spokes of a wheel, the aquarium’s exhibits branch out from one central main floor, allowing families and groups to always have a central meeting point after exploring.

The aquarium also contributes to research on the world’s water animals and have funded more than 100 research initiatives. Supporting studies from Florida to the Galapagos Islands, the Georgia Aquarium has invested time and money focusing on the health and lifestyles of penguins, manatees, sea turtles, and more.

The aquarium also offers opportunities for schools and students to learn about conservation, STEAM programming, and specific types of animals. Students and school groups can sign up for instructor-led tours, or can visit the aquarium on their own. The aquariums educational programs are all designed to connect with Georgia Performance Standards, and enhance what student’s study while in school. The Sponsored Education Admissions (SEA) program offers financial support for free admissions to individuals and groups in need of assistance buying tickets.

As a nonprofit organization, the Georgia Aquarium is supported by the generous work of volunteers and contributions of donors. Volunteers can sign up to help at the aquarium, and can do so on their website. They can act as greeters at guest services or can even sign up to help feed the animals and clean the tanks. The proceeds from individual ticket sales, along with the additional funding support received by the aquarium go toward maintaining the facility and critical research efforts.

More information on how to visit, support, or volunteer with the aquarium can be found at www.georgiaaquarium.org.

“There is always something to do at the aquarium,” Handy said. “Every day is an opportunity to experience the aquarium with your friends and family.”


To listen to the full episode, visit http://ow.ly/VACn30goaA2.


Prepare for your next job fair with these tips:

Watch this video for tips on how to make the most of the next job fair or hiring event you attend. Did you know our Northeast Plaza career center is hosting a job fair on Wednesday, November 8? With more than 100 positions open from local hiring employers, you won’t want to miss this event! For more information, visit https://goo.gl/gUA7PR

From Past Mistakes to New Beginnings

Meet Caleb…October (13)

Landing a job after incarceration is one of the hardest aspects of adjusting back into society. For Caleb Blanton, starting his own business seemed to be the only option for getting his feet back on the ground and to stay on the right track. “I knew that if I wanted to work again, I’d have to start my own business,” he says.

Blanton was referred to Goodwill’s GoodBiz training program from his counselor at the time. With a business concept already in mind, Blanton enrolled in the program to bring his plan to life. “I knew I wanted to do something in the recycling industry, but the program helped me expand on that,” he says. Through the program, Blanton received proper business certifications, financial assistance, developed a résumé and successfully launched his own business – Toad’s Junk Removal.

Upon completion of the GoodBiz program, Blanton continued expanding his business services and experiences. “I wanted to stand out. I knew there’s no such thing as being overqualified,” he says. Having an interest in construction, he enrolled in the Apartment Maintenance Technician training program, designed to provide credentialed training and job placement assistance. While in the program, Blanton worked as an intern for Habitat for Humanity and five months into the internship, secured full-time employment with the organization.

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As a two-time Goodwill program graduate, Blanton is thankful for Goodwill. “There are so many ways Goodwill helped me. They [Goodwill] worked wonders in my life and held me accountable. Every Wednesday, I felt better because of the positive motivation and encouragement they provided me with,” he says.

Receiving a legal and dependable paycheck is only a portion of the satisfaction for Blanton’s hard work and success. “Working for Habitat for Humanity and getting to see the impact I have on other people’s lives is what feeds my soul,” Blanton says. Despite his past, Blanton now works full-time and owns his own business. With help from Goodwill, Blanton turned past mistakes into a new future. He hopes to continue his success by expanding Toad’s Junk Removal to take on bigger jobs and eventually into a house-flipping business.


A Blessing and a Newfound Purpose

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. For Jovanda Martin, they arrived in the form of Workforce Development training at Goodwill of North Georgia’s Pleasant Hill career center. Martin hails from New Orleans, Louisiana, and was a dislocated worker following hurricane Katrina. With no college education, as well as a cognitive and a physical disabilitSuccess Story Template (11)y, she was having a difficult time finding a job.

She came to Georgia to live near her sister and her sister’s three children. Comfortably living on Social Security disability benefits, Martin became restless and interested in doing more with her life. “She wanted to be productive again,” says Dominic Carden, employment specialist at Goodwill. “She saw that she was capable of so much more than people assume.”

While enrolled in training, Martin sharpened her interviewing skills and learned how to work well with other people. She honed customer service skills by providing hands-on assistance to fellow job seekers in the career center. “Goodwill is a good place to start looking for a job. They have so much training and a job coach to help you,” she says.

As her training came to an end Martin applied for a job with YSS Athletics, a professional manufacturing facility specializing in athletic uniforms and apparel. She got the job and was hired as a production associate. She is responsible for quality assurance inspections of manufactured clothing, as well as order placing and maintenance of the company’s files. “I love it here – it’s a good environment,” Martin says. “Goodwill was really a blessing for me. [The training program] helped me get on my feet.” She is happy with her job and proud to come home with a sense of purpose.

Eager to inspire others to find their independence and realize their potential, Martin pays it forward by staying connected with the Pleasant Hill career center and sharing her success with new program participants. “I am very proud of Jovanda’s humility, attitude and persistence, as most people would have given way to anger, doubt and expectation,” Carden says. “She is truly an inspiring individual.”

Second Helpings: Nourishing Those in Need


40 percent of food produced in the United States goes to waste. A staggering and frustrating number, especially when you factor in the nearly 20 percent of Georgia residents facing food insecurity every day.

In fact, an average food-insecure family of four skips about 100 meals a month just simply because they can’t afford food. Hoping to bring the excess to those who need it most, Second Helping Atlanta bridges the gap between the waste and the want.

Started in 2004, the nonprofit describes itself as a “food-rescue” organization that focuses on two major societal issues: reducing hunger and food waste. This food waste occurs all over: farm-grown food that’s never sold, spoiled food, food not purchased from grocery store shelves, and food purchased but not eaten. Second Helpings finds this unused food, and “rescues” it.

Working with partner food-suppliers, including grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and caterers, Second Helpings connects leftover food with local pantries, community meal providers, and emergency housing facilities to provide food for individuals and families in need. They focus on securing perishable, highly-nutritious food to combat the health impact and typical diet of a food insecure individual.

“We recognize that the clients of the partner agencies who are receiving this food are surviving on highly-processed foods,” said Second Helpings’ Executive Director Joe Labriola. “We’d like to be able to introduce the types of food that they either don’t have access to or can’t afford.”

Second Helpings distributes the food using a powerhouse team of 360 active volunteers. Using their 90-minute model, volunteer drivers are connected with a route that gets them from their home to the food donor, in their own vehicles in 90 minutes or less. These boots-on-the-ground volunteers a quick and critical service and solution for a high-need problem.

The work of Second Helpings also generates an important multiplier effect. With their help, these partner organizations can funnel funds that might have previously been spent on food for their clients, to other critical services and programs.

“They can have a larger impact on the community they serve without necessarily having to raise more money,” Labriola said. “That’s another tremendous benefit and something that allows us to magnify what we are doing in the community every day.”

Second Helpings deliveries reach 4,500 people every day and amount to about 37,000 pounds of food each month. They have also recently started working with the new Mercedes Benz stadium, picking up leftover food from the executive suites, and taking part in the increased focus on the West Side of Atlanta.

The organization will continue its work in this neighborhood, with hopes of even great geographic expansion. Last year, they distributed 1.35 million pounds of food, a 60 percent increase over the previous year.

To continue to scale, Second Helpings is always looking for new partners, volunteers, and funders. More information can be found online at www.secondhelpingsatlanta.org.

Lifelong learning starts with early learning at Sheltering Arms

Not many organizations can tout a more than 100-year history, but Atlanta’s Sheltering Arms, can do that, and then some. Since 1888, the organization has served children and families in Cobb, Dekalb, Douglas, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties.

Even better than their longevity? Their mission. Sheltering Arms

Sheltering Arms works with young children, from six weeks to five-years-old and typically from low-income families, to promote the importance of early-learning and help prepare them for academic journey.

Every year, Sheltering Arms provides critical services to more than 3,600 local children and families, working with participants with their “Creative Curriculum,” a model that seeks to promote self-esteem, creativity, and critical-thinking skills. The Curriculum follows 38 teaching strategies, based on research, which include social-emotional learning, cognitive, physical, language, and academic learning.

At the heart of Sheltering Arms’ work is an intense focus on language and literacy. Those who participate in the program score, on average, in the 90th percentile for language and literacy. These scores place participants in a healthy position to start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.

“We take building early literacy and language skills very seriously at Sheltering Arms,” said Blythe Keeler Robinson, President & CEO of Sheltering Arms. “Children who do not have access to books and don’t read regularly are at high-risk of becoming some of society’s most vulnerable children.”

To help achieve their goals, Sheltering Arms partners with the Atlanta Speech School and the United Way, among others, and are on board with the state’s 2020 vision of students reading at grade level by the 3rd grade.

Sheltering Arms holds a year-round literacy program, and offers a monthly book distribution to help children build home libraries.

“Our literacy and language focus is what sets us apart,” Robinson said. “Exposing children at young is what puts them on path for love of reading and learning, and the sooner we can expose them, the better.”

Sheltering Arms recently expanded into its 16th learning center, located on the Barack and Michelle Obama Academy campus in Peoplestown. A brand new, two-story, 26,000 feet building, the center has fourteen new classrooms. Children are grouped by neighborhoods, and follow the same cohort throughout their time with the program.

The center also has meeting rooms and hospitality areas, as well as multi-purpose rooms intended for community and neighborhood meetings. The new center was built in partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, in hopes to promote a direct pipeline for education. The goal is for students to transition out of Sheltering Arms, ready to enter Atlanta Public Schools.

Next up, Sheltering Arms hopes to expand its services to increase STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) project-based learning. They are also placing increased emphasis on dual-language student services.

Sheltering Arms is always looking for volunteers, and interested individuals can go online to www.shelteringarmsforkids.com, or visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or LinkedIn.

Why pay full price for a costume you’ll wear once?

From unique to spooky, you can be anything you want for Halloween this year with the help of Goodwill. Find your inspiration below for piecing together that perfect costume. 

Choose between dressing up as a scarecrow, lumberjack or farmer with this costume.

Turn into a mime and leave the crowd speechless with this easy DIY costume! Top it off with a cap and pair of white gloves to complete the look.

Dress up as a tennis player this year with a pair of tennis shoes, collared shirt, skirt and tennis racket all from your local Goodwill!

Bring back the 1920s and celebrate Halloween with class and style in this flapper girl costume.

Turn your children’s dreams of being a fireman into a reality with this costume spotted at the Northside Drive store!
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Are you a fan of mysteries? Become a detective or Al Capone with this easy DIY costume.


Whatever you choose to dress up as this year, don’t spend a fortune and make Goodwill your Halloween resource.

Meet Justin

Humility is a core value for Justin McKibben. While he won’t tout his own successes very widely, he has overcome tremendous challenges to get where he is today. A major source of adversity McKibben faces is hydrocephalus, a medical condition once known as “water on the brain.” The condition, along with complications occurring in more than 70 surgeries he’s undergone in relation to the condition, cause McKibben a great deal of pain. When he was 19 years old, he decided to drop out of high school and live on disability checks. “I had fallen on rock bottom, skipping around from house to house,” he says. After some prodding from his family McKibben decided to get serious about looking for a job.

McKibben connected with his local Vocational Rehabilitation office, and he stopped by Goodwill’s Cartersville store looking for clothing when he noticed a sign for the career center. He entered the center and immediately felt a connection. “I was at the career center every day for four months,” he says. “I used every resource it offered – computers, job boards, job fairs – everything.”

October (2)

Following a work evaluation, work adjustment and what seemed like hundreds of job applications, McKibben got an offer to work at FedEX in Marietta as a package handler. When he accepted the position his connections at Goodwill stepped in again to help him. “I didn’t know my rights as a disabled citizen,” McKibben says. With support and suggestions from the career coaches at Goodwill, McKibben’s employer instituted small accommodations for him, like lowering the time clock and recycle bins.

Now eight months into the job, he has already received more than one pay raise and is working on getting his GED so he can transition into a quality assurance position at the company. He arrives early to work each day and works hard to show his appreciation for his new position. “Without the career center I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” he says. “When I go to work, I work.” Ever humble, McKibben is quick to credit others for their role in his achievements. But there is no denying he is a shining example of success in the face of extreme adversity.

Creating a New Path

While studying special education at the University of Georgia, Jonathon Clark’s life took an unexpected turn. Clark had a brain aneurysm burst which resulted in a stroke. He survived the incident, but was left with limited mobility and some traumatic brain damage. At that point he had to find a new path for his career.

Clark sought assistance from Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation and was referred to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Workforce Development program. “When I met with Goodwill, the most helpful thing for me was all the various job leads,” he says. “Otherwise I wouldn’t even know where to look or how to apply for jobs.” ThJonathonough Clark is unable to drive himself, his Goodwill job coach even helped with transportation assistance to and from job fairs and training.

After completing his training, Clark was hired as a cashier at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Marietta. “He really didn’t need coaching, he was already professional and knowledgeable” says Goodwill Job Coach Cassandra Wimberly. “He was so excited and grateful to be working. I was just there to make sure he was comfortable.”

Checking in every 30, 60, 90, 120 and 180 days, upon program completion is another way Goodwill Job Coaches ensure the job is a good fit and that graduates have what they need to continue to succeed at work. Wimberly enjoys the visits with Clark because of his optimistic personality. “I’ve never visited or spoken with him where he wasn’t positive or upbeat. He is truly a pleasure,” she says.

One of the last faces customers see before they leave the store, Clark wants to make a positive lasting impression. If customers are happy when they leave, they are more likely to come back and to spread the word to their friends. Clark’s manager has also noticed his initiative and exceptional service. “The job is going really well,” Clark says. “I’m approaching the two year mark [with the company]. I’m so happy with my job I’m hoping to see what kind of mobility I have if I stay there.”

When Clark was recovering from his life-changing injury in 2014, he was told he may never walk again. That didn’t stand in the way of Clark pursuing a career. “Jonathon is awesome,” says Wimberly. As a proud job coach, she is grateful to see the opportunities Clark is embracing and the positive impact he will continue to have on those around him.