Hiring Well, Doing Good

Georgia Center for Opportunity hosted the inaugural “Hiring Well, Doing Good” breakfast on September 13th. The event brought together close to 150 business, community and nonprofit leaders to discuss ways to help the chronically un- and under-employed to find work.

We heard from business leaders like Phil Stroud of Tip Top Poultry and Luke Marklin of Uber, who highlighted their companies’ efforts to provide jobs and training to individuals who struggle – for various reasons – to find and maintain steady employment. Phil told the story of an employee who, through a lapse in judgement, spent 10 years in prison – but is now working in a management position for Tip Top, earning $18 an hour for his family.

Bruce Deel, founder and CEO of City of Refuge, shared about his organization’s success in empowering some of Georgia’s most vulnerable individuals and families to become independent and self-sufficient. City of Refuge will soon graduate its 20th class of culinary students, many of whom are formerly homeless, but are now equipped with the skills to obtain gainful employment in some of our city’s top restaurants. And Frank Fernandez of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation inspired us with the creative ways his organization is encouraging construction contractors working at the stadium to hire returning citizens and generate long-term jobs for the unemployed.

We are grateful to Seth Millican and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce for cohosting “Hiring Well, Doing Good.” We were especially encouraged that 100% of survey respondents found the event helpful, 91% left feeling better informed about the chronically un- and under-employed and how to help, and more than 40 connections were made with human service organizations. It was great to see the conversations happening and connections being made both before and after the event, and we’re excited about what develops from this event.

If you’d like to learn more, please visit www.GeorgiaOpportunity.org/Hiring-Well-Resources.

Amid Shootings and Violent Protests, Georgians Consider Solutions

Amid Shootings and Violent Protests, Georgians Consider Solutions

Something happened in College Park Wednesday night that hasn’t really garnered much attention but should be front-page news. Thanks to the College Republicans at Morehouse College, I was able to participate in a panel* focused on how to constructively respond to recent police shootings of black males and the violence and protests that have followed.

Diego Aponte, President of the Morehouse College Republicans, said it best when he said that, while protests are necessary at times to raise awareness of a problem that’s going unaddressed, the real question is whether we know what can and should be done to solve the problem.

While much of the discussion centered around ways the public can hold police officers accountable for their actions and how police can more effectively engage with the communities they serve – through things like actually living in the community or regularly interacting with community members – a significant amount of time focused on the systemic problems that are limiting opportunities for young African-American males.

Because of our work at GCO, the topics that kept coming up were not new to us – lack of a quality educational options, limited access to employment, and epidemic levels of family instability. Each problem, in its own way, chips away at the ability of an individual to succeed in life. Together, they can virtually insure that a person experiences poverty and all of the social pathologies – including crime – that come with it.

After a discussion that continued for the better part of three hours, a group of us agreed to come together again, but this time for the express purpose of plotting out the concrete actions we must take to change the status quo in Georgia on these issues.

Like a lot of the people I talk to, I am very worried for our country on many fronts. That said, the discussion that took place last night gives me hope that we still have what it takes – the intelligence, the candor, the faith, and the goodwill – to turn things around.

Many thanks to Leo Smith for the invitation to take part.

*Other panelists included Douglas County Solicitor General, Matthew Krull; Georgia GOP Director of Minority Engagement, Leo Smith; GAGOP First Vice Chairman and former Police Officer, Michael McNeely; Douglas County Police Chief Gary Spark; Retired Law Enforcement Trainer Darrin Bell; Conservative Talk Show Host and Political Commentators, Shelley Wynter and Attorney Robert Pattillo; Morehouse College Republicans Chairman, Diego Aponte; Spelman College student leaders, and Pastor Joel L. Trout.

The Economy: What’s Love Got to Do With It? Turns Out, a Whole Lot!

Earlier this month, GCO hosted a lunch and learn with Dr. Brad Wilcox, one of the nation’s leading sociologists. Dr. Wilcox has devoted his work to understanding family formation and the effect it has on our social structure and economy. His new report, “Strong families, prosperous states: Do healthy families affect the wealth of states?” takes a deep dive into the shifts in marriage and family structures – highlighting the factors which influence the national and states’ economic performance.

Georgia is in the bottom ten states for children living with married parents and at the bottom for college educated individuals. These statistics have a defining negative effect on the state’s economy and correlate with a higher number of Georgians on welfare programs and in the state’s penitentiary system.

At GCO, we understand that strong and healthy marriages have been proven to be better for all family members and lead to increased economic stability. That is why we are working to strengthen families and marriages, through relationship training so that individuals have skills they need to have healthy relationships and a public campaign to increase the value our culture places on marriage.

As Randy Hicks, President of GCO, states “When we’re successful, fewer Georgians will be living in a condition of dependence, a higher percentage will be enjoying earned success and the fruits of their labor, more children will be ready for college and a career, and more families will have the economic and relational resources to thrive.”

For more information about our Family and Community Initiative, visit: https://georgiaopportunity.org/initiatives/family-community/

AEI Event: Improving Prisoner Reentry and Reducing Recidivism

Man in handcuffs

Watch a recording of the event here.

Georgia Center for Opportunity was privileged to partner with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in co-hosting an event on the issue of prisoner reentry at AEI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, July 28th.

The event featured two panels: The first consisting of non-profits leaders who have faced challenges and successes in helping former prisoners successfully reintegrate into society, and the second featuring government leaders who have similarly faced challenges and successes in working to reform the criminal justice system itself.

GCO’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Eric Cochling, moderated the first panel that featured four non-profit leaders, including Craig DeRoche of Justice Fellowship, Harriet McDonald of The Doe Fund, Bryan Kelley of Prison Entrepreneurship Program, and Harold Dean Trulear of Healing Communities. The panelists discussed such themes as the importance for Americans to view prisoners and people with a criminal record as a valuable asset to society, the importance of work and its role in promoting human dignity and successful reintegration, the necessity for returning citizens to experience a change in attitudes and values to avoid recidivating, and the role of the community in embracing returning citizens and “walking with” them in their journey.

The second panel was moderated by Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at AEI, and featured three government leaders: Georgia’s own Jay Neal, former state representative and current executive director of the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry, Gary Mohr, commissioner of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and Chauncey Parker, special policy advisor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. This panel highlighted specific approaches that states have taken to improve prisoner reentry as a means of promoting public safety, including instilling the mindset that reentry begins at the point of arrest, basing decisions on data instead of knee-jerk reactions, facilitating better connections between family members and incarcerated loved ones, and instilling the importance of viewing offenders as human beings among the criminal justice workforce.

Watch the event and gain a better understanding of how effective collaboration between families, faith communities, service providers, and the government, as well as a changed perception of the ones they are serving, is essential for promoting successful reintegration among returning citizens.


C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

The John Jay Institute and Georgia Center for Opportunity co-hosted a lecture held at Whitefield Academy in Mableton, GA, last Thursday titled “C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War.” The lecture was given by Dr. Joseph Loconte, an Associate Professor of History at The King’s College in New York.

In his lecture, Dr. Loconte brilliantly demonstrates how the Great War (WWI) shaped both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s outlook on the world, who were both soldiers in the war and experienced the horror of the deadliest conflict known to man up to that era. He reveals how the war’s impact can be seen in these author’s extraordinary works of literature, drawing from examples in the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings to highlight ways in which the authors weave in themes of friendship, noble sacrifice, the corruption of power, and the necessity of grace to overcome the power of evil.

Of special interest is the way in which these two men’s close friendship impacted their writing and set them apart from other writers and poets of their day, a number of whom became disillusioned by the evils they saw in the world. Lewis and Tolkien’s works provide an air of hope amid the sad reality of war and suffering, which stemmed from their belief in the redemption that is still to come.

Watch the lecture here:

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War – Part I

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Great War – Part II


Image credit:

http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/51973/20140721/j-r-r-tolkien-and-c-s-lewis-friendship-documented-in-new-easter-film.htm (featured image)

http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/CS_Lewis_and_JRR_Tolkien_page2 (in the post)

From Welfare to Opportunity

From Welfare to Opportunity - Jennifer and Randy

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s President Randy Hicks and the Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall discuss the issues of poverty and family fragmentation, as well as potential local and state solutions to combat these issues during a special luncheon hosted by GCO on April 8, 2015 at the Buckhead Club in Atlanta.

Watch the discussion here:

From Welfare to Opportunity – Part I

From Welfare to Opportunity – Part II