Adaptable and Dependable

At the age of 12, Tossapop Strickland developed an interest for electronics and soldering. “I began soldering when I was a kid in Thailand with my uncle’s soldering iron. I would take apart toys and piece them back together,” Strickland says. In 2013, he and his family relocated to the United States to be near family and better schools. Strickland’s surroundings changed, but his interest in soldering stayed with him.    24

Adjusting to his new home and a new high school, Strickland learned the importance and value of being adaptable. “At first it was hard. The weather, time and language were difficult to adjust to,” he says. Learning to speak English as a new high school student, Strickland worked even harder to maintain his grades and develop the ability to speak with his peers.

His English continued to sharpen as his friend group grew, but Strickland’s listening and comprehension skills lagged behind. “My speaking was off the charts, but not really my listening or reading,” he says. Upon graduating high school, he looked to transition directly into the workforce. He worked as a delivery driver for a family restaurant, but it did not provide him with a feeling of satisfaction.

With a seasoned interest in electronics, Strickland hoped to find a career that aligned with his passion for solving technical problems and working with his hands. He was referred to Goodwill’s Electronics Assembly and Soldering program by a friend. While in the program, he received technical soldering training and obtained industry-recognized credentials, including IPC 610 Specialist/Inspector and IPC J-STD Board Repair Tech certifications. Even with extensive knowledge in the area, Strickland needed help getting his foot in the door. “Goodwill helped with my English and communication skills for interviews,” he says. “I learned how to sell myself when applying for jobs.”

Overcoming the challenges of interviewing and networking, Strickland got the chance to put his skills to work when he gained fulltime employment as an electronic assembler at Scanfil. “I didn’t know it was possible to have a career in electronics. I never had the chance to try, but Goodwill gave me the confidence,” he says. In nearly half a year on the job he has distinguished himself as a top performer at his work site.

Bringing a great attitude, a natural interest in the work and strong technical ability to every task, Strickland surpasses expectations for every project presented to him at Scanfil. “I work in all of the departments. They put me in departments that are backed up or need to get ahead,” he says. As a valuable asset to the organization, his supervisor Roxana Flores says, “Tossapop masters each department right away and produces quality work. He exceeds the daily goals that some people take weeks to do.”23

Now that he’s hit his stride in his new country, Strickland hopes to continue advancing his career. “I really love what I do and I am thankful Goodwill helped me get here,” he says. Strickland took the opportunity to showcase his skills and not only loves what he does, but excels at it.

Filling Atlanta homes with love, and so much more

“A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.” For the single mothers of Atlanta, local nonprofit HOME is helping them transform their bricks and beams into hopes and dreams.

 HOME stands for Helping Oppressed Mothers Endure. And although the organization helps to restore hope and healing hands, they are also all about providing the tangible essentials that make a home a safe and comfortable place to live.

HOME was inspired by founder Carolyn Watson’s mother, Margie Faye Davis Webber. With her two daughters and two suitcases, she fled an abusive marriage to start a new life.JULY (7)

“That is the very image that remained in my head,” Watson said. “My mom was such a courageous mom to be able to rebuild her life and be brave. She had such courage and fight to start life all over again raising children alone.”

HOME helps mothers who have taken that courageous step, giving them the things they need to get back on their feet. The organization accepts new and gently used donations of home goods, like curtains, dishes, furniture, and TVs. In addition to the smaller items collected, HOME always ensures the mothers and their kids get brand new beds.

Webber’s legacy is honored throughout the year, too, as four deserving mothers are selected for their courage and perseverance and featured in HOME’s String of Pearls newsletter. Each mother chosen is also given a small financial gift and recognized at the annual HOME for the Holiday brunch and tea social.

HOME works in nine Atlanta counties, relying on word of mouth and partnering with local agencies to get connected to mothers in need of assistance. To qualify for HOME’s services, women must be transitioning out of a hardship, such as incarceration, relocation, or divorce. They must be a single mother, and employed and/or going to school. They must also have a lease that is in their own name.

The organization, started three years ago, helps nearly 100 moms every year. And their good work has not gone unnoticed. Recently, NFL star Colin Kaepernick heard about the nonprofit, and was touched by their mission. So touched, in fact, that he donated $25,000 to support their work.

HOME has seen many success stories, and Watson told of one while on the show. During their first year in operation, a mother of three came to them in need of support. She had just been through a divorce, and was living in an apartment with no furniture. She said she felt inadequate as a mom, and was ready to give up.

“She said HOME gave her hope,” Watson said.

Now, the mom runs her own cleaning business, to which HOME refers customers. “HOME was that hand up that she needed,” Watson said. “And sometimes in life, that is all we need is somebody to believe and somebody to show us that someone out there sees your situation and cares about it.”

For more information on how to support HOME or volunteer your time to help the organization, visit their website at www.home2heart.org.

SheWill: Teaching Financial literacy with a side of self-esteem and empowerment

JULY (4)At a 2013 Financial Literacy and Education Summit held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray stated that “a large majority of K-12 teachers in the U.S. say that personal finance should be taught in school, yet less than a third say they’ve taught lessons about money, and more than half feel unqualified to teach their state’s financial literacy standards.”

Atlanta’s nonprofit organization SheWill understands this critical need, and is doing its part by teaching financial literacy to local girls between the ages of 8 and 17. These girls learn the importance of financial awareness and career empowerment.

Through an interactive, lecture-based curriculum, girls are taught through age-appropriate activities related to finance and work-readiness. For many, the idea of high school graduation is many years away, but the program provides them with insights and a framework for what they can expect when they complete school.

Research has shown that girls are able to understand the fundamentals of money and finances as early as three years old, so SheWill believes that starting them at 8 makes them even more prepared to learn. They talk about the basics, like what money is, how it’s used, how to count it, and then how to implement the financial skills into their daily lives. These types of skills help young girls to understand real life situations like bill pay and financial struggles or constraints that their parents might be going through.

Sheena Williams, Founder and Executive Director of the organization, hopes that beyond the financial training, that the girls learn individuality, self-esteem, and independence. She teaches them these skills through a variety of programs within the organization. In the mentoring program, girls are paired up with professionals who can guide them and teach them in their desired fields of study. Girls go through the fundamentals of finance in a 10-week course, but also meet and communicate regularly with their mentors to talk about areas they can build on. Then, in the SheWill Lead program, coursework focuses on the development and nurturing of leadership skills.  Finally, in the organization’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, girls learn that leading a business is just like leading their own life.

SheWill also travels to local schools, community centers, and social clubs to bring the organization’s curriculum to girls all over the city. Through their outreach programs, girls can learn how to balance a checkbook, put together their first resume, or build a business plan, all while incorporating fun activities, like Zumba.

The organization doesn’t stop with just the girls in the program, though. Understanding that this learning must continue at home, they offer opportunities for mothers and daughters to attend classes and events together. Girls 13 and over can bring their moms to the classes, and while the young girls learn their own lessons, moms are given tips on other financial topics, like couponing, budgeting, saving, and finding free activities for the family.

The organization is always looking for volunteers, including individuals to take part in the mentoring program. Those interested in learning more about how to help out, or who want to sign up for a class, can visit www.shewill.org.

Keeping a Forever Home with HouseProud Atlanta

The AARP recently found that 87% of senior citizens wish to age in place, remaining in their own home without having to move to an assisted living facility or different location as they grow older. Sometimes, though, keeping up with home repairs and making sure the house meets the needs of an aging population is not always easy, or cheap.

HouseProud Atlanta works to meet the needs of elderly individuals who need some repair work to keep them comfortable and safe in the home they love.

Originally called Community Redevelopment Inc, HouseProud got its start in 1992. The organization gave repair assistance on critical issues like electrical, plumbing, and home accessibility. Now 25 years and a couple of names later, HouseProud has helped more than 400 low-income seniors and their homes in southwest Atlanta.

“We have a very compressed geographic area, which helps us to really focus on community revitalization, we serve about 20 neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta,” Lisa Jones, House Proud Executive Director said. “There are some neighborhoods where we have worked on every house on that street, and we feel like that’s really impactful.”

Partnering with local organization and skilled individuals, HouseProud fills an essential need for residents as they wish to stay in their home, but need a little extra help. And, as they have grown over the years, they have expanded their services to also meet the home needs of disabled individuals and veterans, with the mission of keeping everyone warm, safe, and dry in their homes. HouseProud wants to give back to those who have already given so much.

HouseProud works on any number of projects to update and repair homes, but does not perform rebuilds. Volunteers often work on needs like re-decking porches, fixing and replacing locks, installing wheelchair ramps, and light painting.

Using corporate partnerships and volunteer manpower, the nonprofit capitalizes on the collaborative efforts of the community to assist individuals in need. Sponsors for the organization include Home Depot, SunTrust Bank, KPMG, and Wells Fargo, just to name a few.

Partners and volunteers who sign up to help out with the project are equipped with all the necessary tools and instructions, and are matched up with a professional to oversee the work. These projects are also great opportunities for corporate visibility, allowing companies to promote their service and receive recognition for their team’s work.

To be eligible to receive HouseProud services, senior citizen individuals must be 60 years of age or older, live in the designated service area, and have homeowner’s insurance. There are not age restrictions for individuals with disabilities.

To help raise money for their services, the HouseProud is throwing a large fundraising event in October, called “Raise the Roof.” A cocktail party with a live DJ, the event will be a chance for individuals to learn more about the organization with a $25 donation.

Individuals and companies can learn more about the event and how to volunteer at www.houseproudatlanta.org.

Communicating and Caring at The Ellis School

Not every child learns the same way. And even the most effective and veteran teachers are not always equipped with the time or resources to give every student the individualized attention they need and deserve.Our mission is to create confident students who are life-long learners, focusing on what IS possible.

The Ellis School of Atlanta hopes to offer an educational experience for those students who might need a little extra support. First started by Alison Caputo in 2012 to give her son a place to learn and grow, the school offers a learning environment for students with multiple developmental and physical disabilities.

Caputo and her husband started the school after being met with programs in the public school system that didn’t fully meet their son’s needs. Caputo found that most teachers had too much on their plate or did not have enough training to accommodate students like her son with multiple disabilities.

They were also looking for a school that placed high-importance on communication. Caputo believes that communication was a crucial piece for her son, and so many others like him, to help him be a member of his community and have human relationships.

“Those relationships really start and end with communication,” Caputo said. “For a child who has so many other things going on, at the very least we wanted him to have enriched relationships. That was the main thrust of what we were looking for in a program.”

The Caputos quickly realized that many parents and families were looking for this type of program. The school works with a highly-collaborative staff that designs individualized programs for each student. When the child first enters the school, they will complete a full evaluation and assessment, including vision, hearing, behavior, motor skills, and speech. Evaluators will also determine the academic level for each student, looking at their communication skills, and their math and sequential problem-solving scores.

From there, the staff develops a program to capitalize on the student’s strengths, and focus any high-need areas. This is not just a student-teacher approach, though. Parents and family members are asked to be as involved as possible, making sure they are fully aware of any medical and educational needs, and utilizing at-home strategies to carry the learning throughout the full day.

Since the school is also a nonprofit, they also offer additional programming, including a summer camp that is open to all members of the community. They also offer community education events to help train and inform members of the community who might want to learn more. Lastly, The Ellis School helps with evaluation services to provide families unique and specialized evaluation services outside of their public school or hospital.

The school has seen many success stories, including a young student who was ten years old when she started at the Ellis School. At first, she wouldn’t speak, and scared of her walker, her only device of mobility. By working with the school and its staff, she became more comfortable with her walker, and blossomed in her communication. Now, she’s a chatty teen and her academic scores have increased.

The School is always looking for financial support and volunteers for their summer camp, and can be found online at www.ellisschoolatlanta.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here!

Building the Next Generation From the Ground Up

Author and entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said that “whatever good things we build end up building us.” The Atlanta Center for Creative Inquiry is building a new cohort of creatives, bringing the world of architecture and design to the students of Atlanta.

Expert architect Oscar Harris started the organization in 2004, in hopes of giving high school students the opportunity to explore their own creativity and to showcase the profession to a diverse group of young people. With a mission to mentor, educate, and develop their abilities and provide a greater diversity in the architectural, engineering, and construction industries, ACCI seeks to bolster the fields with the next generation of professionals.

With staggeringly low numbers of minorities and women in the architecture field, Harris and ACCI bring architecture and design within reach of their students, expanding the opportunities for students who might not have considered the profession. Currently, just 1.5 percent of all registered architects are African American, six percent are Asian, and just 22 percent are women.

While they are still in high school, ACCI works with these students to expose them to jobs in the field. Partnering with local colleges and universities, ACCI also works with inner-city students to give them the chance to experience a summer on-campus experience. And, to further boost the pipeline of the profession, ACCI connects their students with area professionals to give them a one-on-one mentorship experience from someone already in the field.

Students who participate in the ACCI program learn from Atlanta’s best, attending lectures, touring construction sites, and visiting architectural firms. They focus on a wide-range of architectural styles and learning, including sustainable design and commercial building.

And, each summer, ACCI presents a week-long academy for 9-12th graders, held at Georgia Tech. While learning from professional instructors, they also get the chance to get hands-on—literally. Students in the program are required to come up with a design concept, and sketch it by hand. From there, they build a 3D model and present their work to their ACCI peers.

“At the end of the week, you’ll be able to stand up in front of everybody and give a presentation on your idea,” Harris said. “When a child comes out of the program, they feel empowered. For the first time, they have been able to develop an idea. They have rendered that idea, and they have presented that idea.”

“The main thing is to get these students excited about themselves and excited about creativity,” Harris added. “We want to get them to see that there is a future for them and a career in architecture, engineering and construction.”

ACCI has worked with hundreds of students in the Atlanta area, seeing many go on to prestigious architecture and design programs in their post-secondary education. More information and applications for this summer’s academy can be found online at www.acci.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here.

Love and Dignity, Beyond the Walls in Atlanta

For the homeless population of Atlanta and cities around the world, a place to sleep at night and finding stable housing have the highest priority. Beyond the hardships of not having a place to live, though, there are other, sometimes overlooked aspects that can go straight to the heart of effecting a person’s self-worth and pride. Seemingly simple, every day activities for some, like a man being able to shave his beard, or being able to receive a paycheck, aren’t easy to come by when living on the streets. For those necessities and more, there is Love Beyond Walls.

The organization unofficially started when Founder and Executive Director Terence Lester and his wife hit the streets of Atlanta, giving away clothes and items from their own home. From there, the Lesters started mobilizing their friends and family to help lead service projects in under resourced areas, eventually creating the nonprofit. Engaging the community through social advocacy, Love Beyond Walls advocates for those who are homeless and experiencing systemic poverty.

Lester applies his own “shoe-wearing” philosophy to the work of Love Beyond Walls, frequently walking in the shoes of those he serves. He has lived on the streets as a homeless person, under bridges and in tents, with no access to a change of clothes, to fully experience all that a homeless person endures on a daily basis.

“It’s about– how do I immerse myself into this sacrificial lifestyle in order to build a bridge between those who have and have not?” Lester said.

A 30-passenger bus that was donated to the organization for one dollar, also known as the Mobile Makeover Bus, is One of Love Beyond Walls most successful programs. The inspiration for the bus came from Leonard, a homeless man who had lost his wife and his hope, and hadn’t been able to properly groom or take care of himself for quite a while. Of all the things he could wish for, he said he wanted to be made over.

The bus is a conduit to self-care and other essential services. It holds a barbershop, a hygiene station and a clothing closet. It also offers further resources to help with steps toward self-sustainability. Since opening the bus, they have helped “makeover” more than 1,300 individuals, while also bringing dignity to those who don’t have access points on a regular basis.

Love Beyond Walls

“We are in the trenches every day. Service isn’t an event; it’s a lifestyle,” Lester said. “I’m constantly inspired and in awe. Every time I sit down with somebody who is experiencing homelessness, I am inspired by the stories they tell.”

The organization currently has two tiny homes that they are using for temporary housing for individuals without a place to live, many of whom are just caught in a string of bad luck. Through their Dignity Art Program, using pallet wood, homeless individuals in the program are taught how to take the pieces and turn them into art. They put their life stories and favorite words on the pieces, and then sell them at art shows. In the process, they learn a trade and earn a paycheck for their work.

To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show click here. To find out more about Love Beyond Walls, visit www.lovebeyondwalls.org, or on social media @lovebeyondwalls.

Atlanta’s School of Rock

The Märchen Sagen Academy offers professional-led training for kids in everything from stop-motion animation to voice over work. Led by Executive Director Couleen LaGon, a video and music producer by trade, Märchen Sagen provides hands on programs to inspire local youth. “We develop humans, and their ideas,” LaGon said. “We are teaching these kids that they don’t have to compete for their world—they can create it.”

Märchen Sagen Academy

“I think that’s the most important thing that we do here—to teach these kids that nothing is impossible. If you can believe and have a little bit of applied faith and some personal action, you can do anything that you want to do.” Opened in August of 2016, Märchen Sagen has attracted many of its students through word of mouth and walk-ins off the street. The Academy also has a performing group that does shows at local schools, building even more local interest.

And the attention doesn’t stop there. The kids in the program were recently hired by Leon’s Full Service Restaurant to produce their new local advertisement. The Academy hopes to continue to provide these services to local individuals and businesses to give participants real-life training, all while securing funds for Märchen Sagen.

While the school year is in session, Märchen Sagen holds a daily after-school session from 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at their 418 Church Street location, offering students the chance to learn about making electronic music, songwriting, filming on a green screen and video production. Providing snacks for the students while they are there, Märchen Sagen offers a variety of different payment packages for participants, who can come between two and five days a week.

During school breaks, Märchen Sagen holds K.A.M.P, or Kids and Multimedia Production. K.A.M.P. is a full-day opportunity for students to continue honing their craft. The Academy offers day and full-week rates during these school breaks.

In addition to their work with the kids, Märchen Sagen is also available for additional video production and studio space. Offering quality equipment and production tools, artists can rent out the studio for recording and tracking work. With the Artists Development Package, artists get six hours of studio time, which includes one hour of pre-production, four hours of production time, and one hour of mastering.

The Academy is also available for parties and events, offering locals the opportunity to rent out the historic space. Those interested in learning more or enrolling in the summer camp can visit their website at www.marchensagen.org.

To listen to this full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

A Seamless Partnership

Charles Pace GCPL
Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace poses alongside Vice President of Career Services Cheryl Cornett and President Ray Bishop at the annual Employer Recognition Event.

Aligning well with the library’s informational and educational objectives, our mission is to put people to work. The mission of the library is to support informational, educational, and recreational interests with convenient, creative, customer-friendly access to materials and services.

“We are all about changing lives through literacy and reading, just like Goodwill changes lives through helping people find employment,” said Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace.

Through providing valuable resources, the Gwinnett County Public Library has become an appreciated supporter, partner and friend to us. From hosting job-readiness workshops, networking events and career fairs to encouraging the importance of literacy in the community, the library contributes to the many successes of our participants.

Gwinnett County serves as the second most populated county in Georgia and is home to nearly 20 Goodwill stores, career centers and donation centers. As the library looks to strengthen and expand its footprint in Gwinnett County, we look forward to serving more job seekers in order to reach our goal to put 23,000 north Georgians to work before July this year.

Together, we will accomplish both education and employment initiatives. Pace looks forward to what is next for the partnership. “We are really happy to have this partnership with Goodwill and to be able to leverage what Goodwill is doing while also supporting the mission and the goals of the library,” he says.

Join the #GivingTuesday Movement

2016_EOY_Facebook-Wall_Giving-Tuesday

When the Thanksgiving turkey is eaten and the stuffing reduced to crumbs, conversations may turn to whether to go to the malls on Black Friday or opt to make holiday purchases online on Cyber Monday. 

The holidays spotlight the distinct contrasts within our communities. On one hand, there’s a great deal of consumerism and overindulgence that goes along with the activities and traditions, helping to distract us during an otherwise cold and dark season. The season starts with a day to feast and give thanks and two days to find bargains. On the other hand, there are many among us experiencing poverty.

Unlike any other time of the year, the stark contrast motivates many to give back. On November 29,  #GivingTuesday, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity.

There are many ways that people choose to give, such as making a financial contribution or volunteering their time at a local community-based organization. There are other ways to donate, too, like offering our time and skills to a food pantry or donating items to our local Goodwill®. For the latter of those options, gently-used household goods will generate revenue to support employment and job training programs for people in the community. 

No matter how you choose to give this holiday season, #GivingTuesday is simple. Just find the right way for your family, community, company or organization to come together to give something more, then share how you are giving and inspire others to also give.

– This entry was adapted from an entry by Seth Turner, Sr. Director of Public Policy for Goodwill Industries International