Opinion: Giving can help put people to work

Goodwill of North Georgia (GNG) joins millions of individuals and organizations in commemorating Giving Tuesday, a global generosity movement embracing the significance of charitable giving and volunteerism. Giving Tuesday began in 2012, with the goal to do good by serving the community and knowing that any act of generosity can make a significant impact. It is appropriate that Giving Tuesday occurs the first Tuesday after Black Friday, the day most associated with consumerism. Along with Goodwill, numerous charitable organizations in metro Atlanta such as the United Way, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Habitat for Humanity and many more need your support as we strive to improve the lives of Georgians.

While the holiday season is an enjoyable time that many spend with friends and family, for others, it can be a painful reminder of a difficult year and even more difficult times ahead. Unfortunately, far too many Georgians struggle to make ends meet. A recent AJC article noted that Georgia is among the nation’s top three states for personal bankruptcy filings. Just as distressing, Atlanta was once again the nation’s leader for income inequality. In an article titled “America’s Most Unequal City,” Bloomberg News noted that the gap between the most affluent and lowest wealth workers was more pronounced in Atlanta than in any other city.

For marginalized communities, such as people with disabilities and minorities, the numbers are particularly daunting. Nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be unemployed, with an unemployment rate of around 8% in 2018. For African-Americans living in the city of Atlanta, the numbers are scary, with an unemployment rate quadrupling the 2.5% rate for the general population, as highlighted in the AJC news story “Atlanta is known as the ‘Black Mecca.’ Jobs data tell a different story.” Less than half of Atlanta children born to parents at the bottom of the income ladder will move up to middle class and nearly 25% will never make it out of poverty.

Goodwill of North Georgia and other charitable non-profits are working every day to help improve the plight of those in need. Once known almost exclusively as a thrift store operation that puts people to work, GNG has positioned itself as a thought leader on workforce development, focused on income inequality. For nearly 95 years, the organization has worked tirelessly to convert donated goods into much-needed training and programs to prepare underserved communities for employment opportunities and a shot at profitable entrepreneurship through our free to the public programs. GNG is helping to employ individuals with disabilities, criminal backgrounds, and other barriers to economic mobility through a variety of programs such as Youth Employment Services (partnering with local high schools), the First Choice Veterans Program (focused on assisting military veterans), and the Technology Center Program (training for high-demand careers). Through programs like these, GNG was able to put 25,688 people to work last year.

As Giving Tuesday approaches, we hope you will keep in mind all the wonderful opportunities there are to give. Whether you are giving to Goodwill of North Georgia, or any other worthy organization, please join us on Giving Tuesday as we work to inspire a cycle of good that will transform your donations into training and opportunities that bring economic prosperity to marginalized communities throughout metro Atlanta. Find out more about our cycle of good and how metro Atlantans can help put 130,000 people to work by 2023 by visiting us at www.goodwillng.org. Happy Giving Tuesday!

Keith T. Parker is president and CEO of Goodwill of North Georgia.