When Kim Lewis took over last year as executive director of Goodwill Industries of East Texas, her goal was to expand the nonprofit organization outside of its walls by taking services to the community.
One of her first steps to do that is partnering with the East Texas Food Bank to offer the GoodAssist Benefit Program.
Ms. Lewis said she and Dennis Cullinane, executive director of East Texas Food Bank, found they were on the same page about providing people with knowledge and information about services and programs available in the community.
“We have a lot of great nonprofit organizations in the community, people just don’t know about them,” she said.
They talked about Goodwill offering people assistance with SNAP (Texas food stamp program), a service typically provided by the food bank. Ms. Lewis said they took it one step further with the newly formed GoodAssist Benefit Program, which will be a “one-stop-shop” for those in need of assistance.
GoodAssist recently opened in the Goodwill Tyler Super Store, at 1817 WSW Loop 323, to reach residents who may need some extra help for their families.
Five days a week, there are three dedicated computer stations, where trained individuals will confidentially assist participants with applications for benefits from a variety of programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Medicaid) and TANF (Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), through an online application process at www.yourtexasbenefits.com .
With GoodAssist, residents also can get assistance already provided by Goodwill, including its job readiness and computer skills training or apply to work for Goodwill, one of East Texas’ largest employers.
Ms. Lewis said Goodwill and the East Texas Food Bank have never worked together formally on a program before so GoodAssist will be their first joint venture to provide those in need of any or all services.
She said employment services and SNAP benefits will be the driving force of the program but it will provide the full gamut of services. Those who use GoodAssist don’t have to be previous clients of either organization or have to be referred to it. They merely can walk in the office, request help and see whether they are eligible for any or all of the services.
Ms. Lewis said they chose the Tyler store to kick off the program because of its centralized location in a city that draws upwards of 300,000 people on a daily basis.
“It’s a perfect hub; the store is a centralized location and is easy to get to,” she said, adding that it was a good place to get the word out and provide those services.
The goal is to expand GoodAssist to a second Goodwill store this summer, and then to a third store in the fall. Ms. Lewis said they are looking at Longview and Palestine for other locations. After the initial pilot year, the program could be expanded to several of the other 15 Goodwill stores across East Texas.
Goodwill uses the revenue from its 15 retail stores in 13 counties to provide individuals with training, counseling, services and community employment. More than 500 people with some disadvantage were served in 2013.
The East Texas Food Bank provides more than 17 million meals each year to 200 partner agencies in 26 East Texas counties.
Schedule an appointment with GoodAssist’s coordinator Brian Williams at 903-343-5495 or stop by the Goodwill Tyler Super Store from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
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