Interagency Council gets update on work of Goodwill Industries

By SARALYN NORKUS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 12/21/16

Bradley County Interagency Council members heard a timely update this week when Chattanooga Goodwill Industries brought its message to the group of Cleveland health and nonpofit …

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Interagency Council gets update on work of Goodwill Industries

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Bradley County Interagency Council members heard a timely update this week when Chattanooga Goodwill Industries brought its message to the group of Cleveland health and nonpofit agencies.

Mission Services Vice President Cyndee Sims was on hand to discuss Chattanooga Goodwill Industries programs, which benefits a total of 23 counties in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Most everyone is familiar with the Goodwill donation centers and stores, but the organization goes much deeper than that.

The funds raised from the retail stores serve to fund Goodwill’s main mission, which is to “empower people with disabilities and disadvantages to achieve their potential, increase their independence and improve their quality of life.” Chattanooga Goodwill does this by providing things such as Health Equipment Link Program services, or HELPs, Senior Community Service Employment Program, the Chattanooga Furniture Bank, the Clothing Vouchers program and also provides employment and training services for those with disabilities and other disadvantages.

“We want people to utilize the services and we want people to understand where their money is going when they spend it at the store — it’s coming to do these services and their community is getting something back from these services,” Sims stated.

HELPs collects new and gently used medical equipment, which Goodwill cleans and refurbishes, and then gets it to those in the community who might have been unable to get the items on their own. Items collected by HELPs include wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, hospital beds, canes, bath benches and shower seats. Sims added that there is always a need for the bath and shower seats.

Since the program began in May 2000, more than 25,000 people from all of the 23 counties served by Chattanooga Goodwill have received much-needed medical equipment. No referral is needed to participate in HELPs, but those needing a wheelchair or CPAP machine must have a prescription.

SCSEP works to give lower-income, older adults ages 55 and up the opportunity to join or re-enter the workforce in six counties, including Bradley. Goodwill helps assess an individual’s skills and abilities and then finds them a short-term position (usually no longer than six months) with a public agency or nonprofit organization. Following their short-term assignment, the individual is aided in finding a permanent job.

Because SCSEP is a federally funded program, those looking to take part must meet a certain income requirement. An individual can take part in SCSEP for a total of four years. Currently there are only two agencies in Bradley involved in training participants, with Sims mentioning that they would love to have more get involved.

The Clothing Voucher program provides emergency clothing for those in need, whether it is for themselves, their children or for employment support, like a job interview or work apparel. Referrals are required from an outside agency in order to receive clothing vouchers.

The Chattanooga Furniture Bank helps those who “transitioning out of homelessness, establishing a first-time residence, or relocating as the result of an emergency situation, abusive surrounding or natural catastrophe.” Goodwill provides those meeting the requirements with rooms full of furniture.

Another referral based program, the furniture bank provides aid to those living in any county that touches Hamilton County due to the fact that participants must arrange their own pickup of the furniture.

Goodwill Industries prides itself on being “one of the world’s largest and most successful providers of employment and training services for people with disabilities and other disadvantages,” and Chattanooga Goodwill is no different.

“In terms of our stores, a lot of our folks are those who would have a challenge getting hired elsewhere,” said Vice President of Operations Lance Rettig. “We give people a second chance, or even a fighting chance.”

Both Rettig and Sims stressed the importance of donations, which are the organization’s “lifeblood.”

More information about Chattanooga Goodwill Industries’ programs can be found at www.goodwillchatt.org.

More Interagency news:

— The Refuge will start registration for its next Career Connections class in mid January.

— First Cumberland Presbyterian Church is holding a free pancake breakfast Wed., Dec. 21, from 9-10:30 a.m. All are welcome to attend.

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