Three United Way agencies and Live Oak Public Libraries have partnered to provide free employment services in one of Savannah’s most impoverished neighborhoods.
The new Job Connection Career Center at the West Broad Street YMCA, 1110 May St., opened Monday morning with a promise to train jobseekers and match employers with potential job candidates.
West Broad Street YMCA, Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire, Step Up Savannah Inc. and the library hope their collaboration will become a model for similar organizations in other communities.
“Truthfully, I think there is a shortage of good economic development-type programs,” said United Way President/CEO Gregg Schroeder. “This type of program is exactly what our community needs.”
With 16 computer terminals, the center will be a resource for job searches, job fairs, resume building, interview training and networking. Educational seminars will also offer help with job skills as well as health and wellness and financial planning. Additionally, employers will be able to post jobs in a job bank and be matched with qualified applicants from the center’s database.
Unlike other Job Connection Career Centers in Brunswick, Vidalia, Richmond Hill and Waycross that rely on donations, the new center is offering its services free of charge through funding by the partner organizations. Goodwill volunteers will staff the center during non-traditional hours.
More than 2,000 people have reportedly found jobs through the centers.
“This is not about names outside of the building or ceremonies like this,” Goodwill President/CEO Mohsen Badran said at Monday’s ribbon-cutting.
“The bottom line is jobs. We hope that this work here will enable many people out there to find a job, maintain a job and have that dignity of having a paycheck in their hands.”
Locating the newest career center in one of Savannah’s poorest areas was no accident.
Established during segregation, the West Broad Street YMCA has served residents in the nearby Kayton and Frazier public homes community for decades. The median annual income is $8,200 and 50 percent of adults are unemployed in the neighborhood, said Peter Doliber, executive director/CEO of the West Broad Street YMCA.
“They want to work. The problem is that they don’t know how to get to the jobs or how to get the skills to be able to get the jobs,” he said. “Collectively, the four of us, we looked at where do our missions overlap and what can we do.”
As a result, the YMCA provided the facility in the community. Goodwill is lending its manpower and years of expertise in case management. Step Up Savannah, with a mission of teaching economic self-sufficiency, decided to provide practical training. And the library offered space for a computer lab inside its branch at the YMCA.
The work of the center won’t stop once a jobseeker finds employment, said Brenda Pollen, interim vice president of Goodwill’s mission services. She said the center will also help people stay employed with a job follow-up program to assist with such challenges as child care and transportation. They’ll also be encouraged to come back as volunteers to help others in need.
“We really believe this is a model that can be replicated elsewhere,” said Doliber. “We’ve had 30 phone calls so far of people asking if it’s opened yet.”