Goodwill Southern California (GSC) celebrates a milestone in its history of social work with the May 1 opening of its first Community Enrichment Center (CEC) at Fletcher Square in Glassell Park/Atwater Village. The opening comes with a host of community events, including a farmer's market, yoga and zumba classes, career workshops, free document shredding services, and discounts at its retail and café. We first reported plans for the facility here.
"This is the largest single project Goodwill Southern California has developed in nearly 100 years. The collaboration and support of many, including local officials, the planning commission, city and community councils, and our staff, have culminated in this one-of-a-kind center," said Craig Smith, Goodwill Southern California President and CEO, in a statement.
Though the project was borne out of a need to expand GSC's retail operations, it quickly became something bigger. It was Smith's idea to house many of Goodwill's other services within the expansive space.
The CEC sits on a 135,000 square-foot facility that used to be a Kmart. In less than a year, GSC has transformed the interior completely, dividing the cavernous spaces into discrete areas, delineated by solid blocks of wall color. "Rather than just build another big box, we've created something that's really for the community," said Marla Eby of GSC.
The space is airy, well lit, and bright, the kind of uplifting space that fuels the creation of new dreams. In homage to the people they serve, the new facility also incorporates a gallery of powerful, black and white images taken by award-winning photographer Rodney Rascona, depicting participants of GSC's many community programs. Two art corridors bring the space to life. The corridor leading up to the Goodwill retail center also features a 46-foot mural by artist Frank Romero honoring the Los Angeles River. It traces the river from its source all the way out to the sea. Two works by Chicano artist and GSC employee David Flury face the Romero piece.
Entering GSC's retail area is a step above the usual Goodwill shopping experience. The 15,000-square foot space is arranged into clothing, shoes, and home goods. Clothing is displayed by color and then hung in racks. Mannequins and mini-displays mimic those of department stores, which changes the shopping experience.
No shopping trip is complete without a snack. Those simply looking for a bite to eat can head to Café G, which supports GSC's culinary training program and employment service for individuals with disabilities. Designed to help community members familiarize themselves with the culinary industry, the café serves a variety of light fare. A farmer's market will also be set up every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the venue.
A range of other services under the roof of the complex is meant to empower the local community. A career resource center provides no cost career counseling and placement services. GSC also housed its veteran employment program within the complex, which is designed to help returning vets adjust to civilian life. Such services can be similar to its employment program, but Sasha Itzikman, GSC's Vice President of Marketing and Community Relations says it is run by veterans, for veterans. The program includes services such as housing and shelter assistance, medical and dental services, and counseling. "Before we can address employment, we also have to figure out how veterans can be made whole again," said Itzikman.
Despite having a variety of programs housed within the complex, plus a large conference room, and a couple of meeting rooms, there is still more room to be had. A long corridor behind the Career Resource Center has a few more rooms that can be divvied up into defined rooms. GSC plans to share the space with as-yet undetermined partners, which it plans to announce within the summer.
Stop by the new Community Enrichment Center (CEC) May 1 between 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Details available here.