Wed, June 12, 2024

Former bank building again generating “interest”

Recently, Goodwill said welcome to the community.

Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 19 for its new welcome center on the campus in West Augusta.

The center is in the former Georgia Federal Bank building at Washington and Furys Ferry Road. The building is part of the former Village West Shopping Center that is now home to the Goodwill campus, including Helms College, the Job Connection, and Edgar’s Grille and Bakehouse.

Jim Stiff, President of the 31 county local region, said the new welcome center will be the admissions office for Helms College. It will also serve as Goodwill’s gateway to downtown Augusta and Columbia County. He said this is the latest step in the process that began in 2010, when Goodwill bought the former shopping center.

“Phase one was the retail training store, and the Job Connection, the walk-in Job Connection,” he said. “Phase two was all the Applied Learning Enterprises for the School of Hospitality and Snelling Center. Edgar’s Grille, Higher Grounds Cafe that later became Edgar’s Bakehouse. And we actually built a commercial bakery in the back, so that we’re going to do a high production bakery and teach students how to work in a real live bakery. And then phase three is the School of Health Services.”

Stiff told ABD, because Goodwill is a non-profit enterprise, in addition to training, they can run businesses as part of their program. The goal is to give students hands-on experience in business as part of immersion learning.

One of those students is Rian Phidd, a former U.S. Army medic and father of four, who is studying culinary arts.

“I’m trying to get my associate of culinary arts, and this was a great opportunity for me to pursue something that I’ve been dreaming about for quite some time,” he said. “I’m learning a lot of French techniques and just really honed the skills that I need to refine to be competitive in the culinary industry.”

Among those attending Friday’s ceremony were Richmond County School Board President Charlie Walker, Augusta District 7 Commissioner Sean Frantom, and Bennish Brown, President and CEO of Destination Augusta.

“Helms College plays into our, I guess, ecosystem of tourism in a couple of different ways. Number one, it develops a workforce for us. The culinary scene in Augusta is such a big part of what attracts people and Helms College is in the midst of that. And number two, know how to really put on that hospitality, that welcome face, that is expected from Augusta,” he said.

While celebrating the opening of the new welcome center, Stiff said they are ready to embark on adding additional programs.

“Phase four as we call it, the final phase we hope, is to build the School of Technology, the School of Business, and Applied Learning Enterprises for the School of Health Services,” he explained. “We want to have a medical clinic in here, a dialysis center, and we want to have a computer repair company, as well as an IT help desk business.”

Stiff said they need to raise an additional $3 million to add to the $10 million already on hand to create the new schools.

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