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Column: Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola and Atlanta give $7.5 million to City of Refuge for job training

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 30, 2016

The City of Refuge, a 20-year-old nonprofit serving Atlanta’s Westside, will expand its vocational training and entrepreneurial services through $7.5 million in donations from The Chick-fil-A Foundation, The Coca-Cola Foundation and Atlanta.

The donations were announced Wednesday at a press conference at the City of Refuge with The Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Chick-fil-A Inc. CEO Dan Cathy and City of Refuge founder Bruce Deel.

city of refuge

Group comes out to support City of Refuge. Left to right: Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, Coca-Cola’s Muhtar Kent, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Refuge’s Bruce Deel and Terry Tucker

The grants will be used to start a Workforce Innovation Hub, which 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 also be created for young adults, along with a small business incubator and accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Planning for the Workforce Innovation Hub is underway, with opening set for September 2019.

The Chick-fil-A Foundation will donate $5 million over the next five years to the City of Refuge, a longtime partner, according to Rodney Bullard, president of the Chick-fil-A Foundation.

“We are very intentional about building within the gates and growing the services that we have,” Bullard said of the City of Refuge. “And we are also intentional about changing the community around us.”

Bullard said the job training programs at City of Refuge will complement those being offered by Westside Works, an effort that has largely been funded by The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. The foundation’s gift also will go towards expanding the vocational training services of the City of Refuge.

“The personal relationship (between Chick-fil-A executives) with City of Refuge is very strong,” Bullard said. “Dan is personally vested. It’s a great outlet and opportunity for us to give back. The chair of the board is our Chief Marketing Officer Jon Bridges. And I also serve on the board.”

The Coca-Cola Foundation will give $1.25 million to support the vocational training, job readiness and entrepreneurial skills for about 400 women through the 180º Kitchen Culinary Arts Academy and NAPA Auto Training Center, and the development of a Women’s Business Incubator and Accelerator Program. The grant will also support training for more than 150 men, and help them find employment in food service or automotive maintenance and repair, and provide education and training for entrepreneurs.

City of Refuge

Supporting City of Refuge – Leaders speak from the podium (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“We are excited we are able to respond,” said Helen Smith Price, president of the Coca-Cola Foundation. “We have seen all the work that needs to happen on the Westside.”

In addition to the job training grants, Price said the company’s bottling partner — Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc. — will provide in-kind services, including training people to become truck drivers and learning how to maintain and repair its fleet of commercial trucks. It also will provide supply chain management training and expertise in food service quality and delivery.

Price said the different organizations came together so they could better respond to the needs of the community and help the City of Refuge expand its offerings.

The city will give $1.25 million to bring the total donation to $7.5 million.

City of Refuge Chief Strategy Officer Terry Tucker said the public announcement focuses on the job training piece.

“We want to expand opportunities to women who are on our campus and to people beyond our center,” he said. “We want to become a one-stop shop for business owners. And we want to make sure we are offering training opportunities that are diverse, such as computer coding. Hospitality is another area for us.”

The combined investment 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.

Housed in a 210,000-square-foot warehouse in Westside Atlanta, City of Refuge has served as a vehicle for the transformation for many of Atlanta’s most marginalized people and families for nearly 20 years. The organization offers an 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.

While City of Refuge’s primary goal is to equip individuals with vital resources to overcome obstacles and embrace independence and self-sufficiency, the organization also aims to provide comprehensive services necessary to reach middle class by middle age and attain self-sufficiency.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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