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Goodwill, YouthWorks nonprofits foresee pluses in merger

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Marcel Harris, a YouthWorks client, pauses for a photo among the racks of clothes on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Capacity Developers Inc., Downtown.

A Downtown nonprofit hopes becoming part of Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania will help it better fulfill its mission of finding jobs for young people.

“Right now we're serving about 600 youths (annually),” Everett McElveen, chairman of YouthWorks' board of directors, said on Wednesday. “The significance with the merger is the increased number that will be served and gotten ready for a job.”

He declined to say how many more people the group might help. The change is effective July 1.

Lawrenceville-based Goodwill gives YouthWorks a “broader footprint” and access to resources ranging from administrative support to name recognition, said Frederick W. Thieman, president of The Buhl Foundation, which donated money to both groups last year.

“On the other hand, it gives Goodwill a Downtown presence and a presence in the youth arena in terms of employment. It will make both of them efficient and effective,” he said.

Goodwill also provides the smaller YouthWorks with a financial safety net. YouthWorks posted a budget deficit of $77,779 in fiscal 2011, while Goodwill had a surplus of $1.9 million for the same year, according to their federal income tax returns.

“There are too many nonprofits, and they can't survive in the current climate,” said Thieman, citing the economic downturn and the subsequent cutback in government money to nonprofit groups. “It's visionary and far-thinking organizations that look for ways to collaborate or consolidate.”

YouthWorks, founded in 1999, has helped more than 23,000 people ages 16-24 in the Pittsburgh area explore careers, learn job readiness skills and find jobs or internships. Its clients live in disadvantaged communities and face challenges such as poverty, homelessness and foster care.

Goodwill trains and finds jobs for people with special needs, often in its 30 area stores. The agency serves more than 65,000 people annually in eight Western Pennsylvania counties and nine counties in West Virginia.

“What Goodwill brings to the table is the ability to add several other opportunities, like education and training,” said Goodwill President and CEO Mike Smith. “We can bring retail experience in our stores that (youths) may not be exposed to at this time.”

YouthWorks offers “JumpStart Success,” which equips youths with the skills needed for entry-level positions; “Age Up, Not Out,” a work readiness training and life skills program for youth who have left foster care; and “Hire Me,” a career exploration and work readiness program for high school students.

McElveen said all of YouthWorks' 10 employees will keep their jobs. YouthWorks will move from its current location on Wood Street next year but will remain Downtown, he said.

“It's easier for kids to get to,” he said.

The Forbes Funds donated $5,000 to cover the legal costs of the change.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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