Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola and city pledge $7 million for Westside job training

14520347_10154087882466025_8317062448367978056_nThe Chick-fil-A Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation and the City of Atlanta will pledge more than $7 million to the nonprofit City of Refuge to expand job training programs and foster economic development on Atlanta’s Westside.

According to a media statement, City of Refuge will use the funds to construct and operate an innovative jobs hub that will teach people skills to prepare for careers in auto tech and retail, the culinary arts, landscaping, security services and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) installation and repair. A computer-coding academy will be created for young adults along with a small business incubator and accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Many of the people who will benefit from the new jobs training are residents of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, which have been impacted by the recession and recently became the focus of development programs that have gained momentum thanks in part to the nearby construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“I am proud to announce the City of Atlanta’s investment in the new workforce innovation hub in our Westside communities,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “Our city’s leading companies and philanthropic groups are stepping up to support meaningful and lasting change on the Westside. Through this pledge, the City of Atlanta will continue to advance economic success for hard-working families and their children through workforce development and support.”

The investment from these organizations lays a solid foundation for the launch of City of Refuge’s capital campaign, “Shining the Light,” with a goal to raise $25 million by 2018 to support organization programs, including permanent supportive housing and workforce housing.

“Today marks a significant milestone for Atlanta’s Westside. The tangible commitment from our city’s public and private sector will translate into real jobs that will give way to real optimism,” said Chick-fil-A chairman and CEO Dan Cathy. “Bruce Deel and his team at the City of Refuge inspire me, and I am honored that Chick-fil-A can play a part in making their vision for the Westside a reality. They are committed to their neighbors and I know they will continue to serve the community well.”

City of Refuge helps women and children facing homelessness. Through their emergency shelter and transitional housing, which features three hot meals every day, on-site health care, activities for children and youth, as well as vocational training and staffing services, City of Refuge is able to serve as a vehicle of light, hope and transformation for many of Atlanta’s most marginalized individuals and families.

“We’re proud that our Foundation is partnering with other passionate members of the Atlanta community to support this new vocational training effort that will improve the lives of men and women, young people, parents and families throughout our Westside neighborhood,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company. “There is no better time than now for progressive initiatives like this, which will help us strengthen our communities.”

City of Refuge looks to expand beyond training people for work to providing them with the comprehensive services necessary to reach middle class by middle age and attain self-sufficiency.

“I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited for the potential here,” said Bruce Deel, CEO and founder of City of Refuge. “We need more partners to join with us to transform the community, because these are the types of partnerships that can really change everything – more people will be served and more families will be impacted for good. That’s what matters. That’s what we’re about. I’m grateful for community leaders who share a vision for transformation and are willing to work together to see it happen.”

The planning phase for the job hub is underway. Construction, renovation and programming of the more than 20,000-square-foot training center and culinary academy will begin in the coming months and continue through September 2019.

Job training will take place at City of Refuge, where for nearly 20 years the nonprofit has worked to transform lives in the community by providing resources to those on the margin through strategic interventions.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley is the editor of Atlanta Intown.