(Photo by J.L Martello)
In the two decades since YouthWorks Inc. was created, the nonprofit has provided more than 23,000 at-risk youth with the career training vital to gaining meaningful employment. Now, the organization will be able to expand its reach through a recently announced merger with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
On April 4, at Goodwill headquarters, the two organizations announced the merger set to begin July 1. Under the merger, YouthWorks will operate as a program of Goodwill offering career exploration and job readiness training to at-risk youth.
“It really expands the opportunities we have for youth and these resources will allow us to focus more on programming,” said Everett McElveen, YouthWorks board chair. “There are always more kids that can be served than there are services that can be provided.”
Recent statewide funding cuts to nonprofits have left many local organizations in the lurch, including YouthWorks, which completed the 2011 fiscal year with a more than $70,000 deficit. The merger with Goodwill, which boasts annual revenues of nearly $50 million, should eliminate the organization’s financial hardship.
“We all know we need to address youth who need a little extra help to become productive citizens,” said Yvonne Campos, Goodwil board chair. “The idea is it expands both of our capacities and our reach. We have very similar cultures; our hearts are in the right place.”
Goodwill provides a number of opportunities for youth to gain employment experience with 30 retail stores throughout the region, a soon to be completed greenhouse, and cafeteria where workers learn about the food service industry. In addition, their programs include a CareerLink center, GED classes, and even driver’s education.
“It’s a perfect partnership between the two organizations,” Goodwill President and CEO Michael Smith said. “We have so many nonprofit businesses that we can offer youth work experience as they’re transitioning out of school.”
Both organizations have a strong commitment to helping youth and families reach economic empowerment. While YouthWorks has been working with youth to move beyond challenges such as poverty, homelessness, and foster care, one of Goodwill’s most popular programs helps disabled individuals overcome barriers to employment.
“Our board started this strategic alliance process two years ago and Goodwill really rose to the top,” Stephanie Bechel, YouthWorks executive director. “They said they were identifying at-risk youth as an area of growth, and Goodwill already offers so many employment opportunities to youth and families.”
In 2012 Goodwill provided services to nearly 60,000 individuals. The organization also employs more than 1000 people throughout the region.