Volunteers, staff and friends of Bluffton Self Help gathered at 9 a.m. Feb. 22 for a ribbon cutting and sneak peek at the agency's new Education and Resource Center, located at 39 Sheridan Park Circle, next door to its food and clothing distribution center.
The center is a hub for information, resources and referrals, a collaboration of local agencies that offer a range of services.
At the opening ceremony, Mayor Lisa Sulka said she knew that Mrs. Ida Martin, founder of Bluffton Self Help who died in 2013, "is up there in heaven smiling down on us today."
The center, funded in part by a grant from Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, is the first of its kind in Beaufort County. It will be open to all residents in the county, not just clients of Bluffton Self Help, which was founded in 1987.
The space includes computer workstations, printer and fax machine, and work tables for several users at one time. Job fairs, workshops and classes will be held in the space. Topics include computer skills, resume writing, English as a second language, "Dress for Success," nutrition and literacy classes, and tax preparation.
Barbara Bowers, director of the center, said one benefit of having a meeting space is that employers can come here and meet one on one with numerous candidates. For instance, she said, "Representatives from The Sonesta Resort will be here next week to talk about job openings there."
Other employers have scheduled workshops in the following weeks.
"This is beyond Bluffton Self Help," said Kimberly Hall, executive director of the organization. "This is a collaboration of community agencies working together to provide the best possible resources to our neighbors. Education is critical to success, and breaking down barriers and offering a place for people to get help will only make our community stronger."
Hall said the Education and Resource Center, though open to residents throughout the county, is an extension of Bluffton Self Help's mission to provide food and clothing to Bluffton residents. "The Education and Resource Center takes our mission a step further to help our neighbors find their path to self-reliance," she said.
Hours at the center are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
For more information, call Bowers at 843-757-8000, ext. 11, or visit buffton selfhelp.org.