ASHEVILLE – Green Opportunities’ YouthBuild and Kitchen Ready programs are shutting down and will be replaced with new programs that have not yet been determined.
Sherman Williams, chairman of the organization’s board of directors, told the Citizen Times that GO is “still in discussion” about what new programs will be created, whether they will be similar to the ones they’re replacing and when they will debut.
“We’re thinking and hoping that it will be just as successful as what we’ve had in the past,” he said of his expectations for the new programs’ effect on GO’s community.
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The programs that are ending are doing so because their funding sources have expired, Williams said. GO also is not seeking new funding for those programs at this time.
GO has suffered some financial issues in the past. Williams stressed that the organization is “in a good place” now, but he declined to give details about expenses and debt.
Founded in 2009, GO is a nonprofit offering practical training, industry-recognized credentials and job placement services for entry-level workers from marginalized communities. It has a reputation as being a success.
The organization’s executive director from 2017-19, J Hackett, said recently that during his time at GO, the unemployment rate in the surrounding Southside community plummeted.
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GO’s YouthBuild program offers GED help and construction training for at-risk individuals ages 16-to-24. Versions of the program exist nationwide and are funded primarily through the U.S. Department of Labor, which receives annual appropriations from Congress.
GO Kitchen Ready provides free food-industry job training and offers donation-based meals to the Southside community through a partnership between GO, A-B Tech and the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. Williams said funding for that program comes from various sources.
GO debt is ‘being addressed’
In early 2019, the partial government shutdown hit the GO hard. Hackett told the Citizen Times last year that the organization was forced to go without crucial grant funding, prompting difficult conversations about possible furloughs and even putting up kitchen equipment as collateral for loans.
By last November, GO was facing challenges as it stared down the barrel of more than $210,000 in long-term debt with no executive director at its helm, according to a monthlong reporting project by Mountain Xpress.
Asked where that debt stands now, Williams told the Citizen Times, “It’s being addressed.” He declined to share what the remaining debt is.
GO also still has no executive director. Williams said the organization is “checking into (its) personnel situation and trying to make sure (it has) the right people available in the program.”
Williams said GO is funded through a variety of means, including donations and grants. It also brings in revenue through some of its programs. In 2017, the Citizen Times reported that much of the organization’s funding came from Mission Hospital, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County.
The chairman declined to say what GO’s primary expenses are but said the nonprofit is “financially sound.”
A 2017 990 tax form for the organization — the most recent form the Citizen Times could find — showed that the greatest cost that year was in salaries, compensation and employee benefits, which totaled $1.15 million and had increased by $442,000 from the previous year. GO’s overall expenses for that year totaled $1.9 million.
Changes on the way
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, GO shut down March 16 “out of an abundance of caution,” with only essential staff offering no-contact services and case management continuing remotely, according the the nonprofit’s website.
An earlier post, on Feb. 27, already stated that GO was not accepting new students for its training programs at that time.
Nevertheless, Williams said GO isn’t going anywhere; it’s just changing. And he said the pandemic did not cause those changes.
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“We have plenty of work, and we’re just transitioning away from some programs that were established before and moving into some other programming,” he said.
He said GO is looking forward to a “prosperous future.”
Mackenzie Wicker covers growth, development and healthcare for the Asheville Citizen Times. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @MackWick.
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This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Green Opportunities ends Kitchen Ready and YouthBuild programs