Any one of Goodwill Industries of Southern Rivers (Columbus, GA/GoodwillSR) nine career centers is often filled with clients who are on a mission – a mission to find employment and increase economic stability.
Increasingly, Hispanics who live in GoodwillSR’s 50-county territory are included in that mission. Recognizing the need to connect Latinos in east Alabama and west Georgia to local resources, the Goodwill’s Hispanic Services has kicked off a robust initiative, in partnership with the Goizueta Foundation, to attract and serve this growing demographic.
The multi-faceted approach includes serving Hispanics in three key categories, explained Patricia “Pachi” McLeod, Hispanic Services Manager for GoodwillSR: team members, business and community partners and Latino clients.
“We really want to touch all three,” McLeod said. “We want to make sure that the staff is comfortable reaching out and connecting with the public. We want to reach employers in the community that need to find ways to attract and connect with Latinos, and we want to make sure our clients know we are here and that we can help them connect with these resources.”
Team Member Connections
The Columbus Goodwill strives to go beyond an organization offering bilingual services to being a truly bilingual organization. That effort has translated to offering Rosetta Stone® bilingual learning. English-speaking team members in the career centers took lessons in Spanish and Spanish-speaking team members used the course to improve their English.
Connecting with Business/Community Partners
As the Hispanic population grows, so does the need for businesses and organizations in the community to learn how to serve them. Columbus Goodwill team members bridge the gap between career center clients and area groups and that effort is carried out in a variety of ways.
Bilingual specialists have formed partnerships with school districts, churches, businesses, and even consulates that offer documentation from other countries, to help better anticipate the needs of the Hispanic community. In school districts in particular, the team works with teachers and parents as translators to help ensure student success.
Connecting with Clients
Classes routinely offered by the career centers are open to everyone, but inclusion of the Hispanic community continues with bilingual training documents, ESL classes, training offered in Spanish, and special events during Goodwill Hispanic Week in October.
Other programs are designed to teach financial management. Goodwill is one of thousands of IRS-trained agencies in the country that offer free tax return preparation. Participation in this program increases the amount of refunds going back to families, while decreasing the likelihood that people who speak little English will be taken advantage of by unscrupulous tax preparers. Also, the Goodwill now offers Andres Gutierrez’s Paz Financiera, the adapted Spanish version of financial guru Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.
Finally, GoodwillSR has continued the Hispanic Youth Program for Employment (HYPE), an effort to encourage Latino youth to finish high school and offers skills training for meaningful jobs while they are still in school.
The Hispanic Services team continues to fulfill GoodwillSR’s mission to develop people, change lives and build communities.