MYRTLE BEACH — Horry County agencies are coming together to create the Prosperity Center, a one-stop shop for Grand Strand residents needing training and services to help them enter the workforce and become financially stable.
The center will be located at the Myrtle Beach Family Learning Center at 3101 Oak St. in Myrtle Beach, where representatives from the initiative’s four core agencies – Palmetto Goodwill, United Way of Horry County, Horry County Schools and the Horry County Literacy Council –will officially launch the project at 10 a.m. Thursday.
“This is a concept that is actually happening across the country,” said Rick Shelley, vice president of mission services for Palmetto Goodwill, who said the center will be up and running next month, and an official grand opening will be held early next year. “We want to bring together a variety of services in one location to help resolve personal problems that may be impacting people adversely. Many people need help to find work or to keep a job, or to find resources they need to better themselves.”
Services at the Prosperity Center will be offered at no cost to community members and will be available from many agencies serving residents of all ages. Services will range from workforce development, including career coaching and training, to instruction in reading and writing, English as a second language, computer literacy and in earning high school credentials. Intake specialists will be on site to direct traffic and provide assessments and referrals, Shelley said.
Financial education is another service that will be offered at the center, although it is not yet in place, said Shelley, who hopes to have that in place early next year. He is looking for people who have professional experience and are willing to offer generic help one on one or to groups, with the biggest need being to help families that are in crisis and about to lose everything, he said.
Shelley and other Goodwill officials heard about the Prosperity Center concept and contacted fellow agencies in other areas to get more information, Shelley said. They visited a center in Winston-Salem, N.C., which he said was doing very well, and they brought ideas back to create centers in the Grand Strand and Charleston areas.
Horry County Schools Adult Education joined with the project because one of the primary barriers people face is skills training, Shelley said. Adult Education and Goodwill have had a longstanding partnership in the North Strand area, where teachers provide classes at Goodwill Jobs Link centers on a regular basis, he said.
Virginia Simmons, director of Adult Education, said work on the concept has taken about a year and a half. Myrtle Beach was considered the right spot for the center because of the unemployment and the diversity in the area, she said, and the Family Learning Center was a perfect building to use, as it already is home to Adult Education and the Horry County Literacy Council, as well as Head Start and the Boys and Girls Club. Horry County Schools also has its preschool assessment offices there and can provide audiology and visual services for children.
“We’re in the right spot because we have a ready-made population here,” Simmons said. “We also have a lot more partners who have been coming to our meetings to see what they can do and how they can help – everybody has stuff to put into it. It’s really a win-win for everybody.”
Debera Terpening, executive director of the literacy council, said the Prosperity Center will provide a wonderful opportunity for agencies to collaborate and serve the community. About 30 percent of Horry County’s population is unable to read the paper or prescriptions or to fill out forms, according to the council’s statistics, and Terpening said volunteers can help to turn that around.
“We have a dire need for tutors now and have over 30 students waiting for help,” she said. “I am very much hoping the visibility will have more individuals coming into the center.”
The strength of the new center will depend on volunteers, said Olivia Garren, president of United Way of Horry County, which will be helping to generate volunteers in different areas. She said request for funding for the center came after United Way had allocated its funds, but the group is in the process of a review and also funds other organizations that will be part of the new endeavor.
“We’re very excited about the possibilities of this service and to help get the idea off the ground,” Garren said. “We’re very excited to be a part of it.”
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.