Business Education

Goodwill conference highlights work of local organization

The conference isn’t over yet, but Darrell Cunningham is already thinking of how to implement what he’s seen and heard.

“My notepad is full of notes,” said Cunningham, the vice president of mission services with the Goodwill Industries of South Florida, who is one of about 300 Goodwill professionals in Augusta for a conference Sept. 25-27.

The three-day event is the first joint conference between the Goodwill Southeast Association and Mid-Atlantic Goodwill Industries Coalition and is hosted by Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area. On Tuesday, Goodwill professionals toured the Helms College campus.

Sessions covered a variety of topics such as donated goods retail, human resources, finances and IT.

Chris Singleton, a former professional athlete whose mother was killed in the mass-shooting in Charleston in 2015, gave an impactful keynote address, according to Alissa Stewart Sparks, chair of the Mid-Atlantic Goodwill Industries Coalition.

Helms College and its students were highlighted during a Tuesday event as more than 300 Goodwill professional attended a conference in Augusta. Charmain Z. Bracket/Augusta Good News

She said he spoke about the transformative power of love, and that’s something important for Goodwill professionals whose work is to change people’s lives.

Karen Davis, the senior director of marketing and public relations with Goodwill of Middle Georgia and the CSRA, said another highlight of the conference was seeing an actor portraying Edgar Helms, the Methodist minister who founded Goodwill. Seeing his epiphany of the impact his ministry would have was profound.

“His vision, his faith, what he saw was so much bigger than any ministry he could do on his own,” she said.

For Augusta’s Goodwill, the conference was a way to highlight the progress it’s made over the past several years and expanding the original mission of Helms.

Read more: Augusta’s Goodwill draws from its past to shape its future

“This event is something we’ve worked on for at least five years,” said James Stiff, president of Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area. “We wanted to bring all the Goodwills together and see the model that exists.”

The model thriving at Augusta’s Goodwill campus on Washington Road is the education and jobs training piece that has been developed. It’s unique to other Goodwills.

Donations and the retail arm provide scholarships for those attending Helms College. Students learn the ins and outs of the culinary industry in a classroom and at Edgar’s Grille and Edgar’s Bakehouse, which convention-goers had the chance to experience Tuesday.

With their experience at Helms College, students are better able to find jobs in that field.

Helms is also expanding into the medical community to help create an education and jobs program there as well. Also, there’s a retail operations associate degree program.

Mauricio Hernandez, chief operating officer with Goodwill Industries of South Florida, said the work in Augusta is “impressive” and knows it requires a lot of support from multiple entities including boards of directors, staff and the community at large. But he sees the benefits.

“The opportunities lead to good paying jobs and empower people,” he said.

One of the sessions on the final day of the conference will focus on how to establish a branch of Helms College at other Goodwills outside of the Augusta area.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter 

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