Living Bridges to open new facility to help people out of poverty

Published: Aug. 16, 2019 at 6:40 PM EDT
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Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

August 16, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A new home for new beginnings is opening in Valdosta.

Living Bridges Ministries is finishing the final pieces on its new facility. The non-profit is hoping to open in just a few weeks.

Through its Transformations program, Living Bridges aims to give community members the tools they need to get out of poverty.

Franklin Kier has been working for the City of Valdosta Public Works for almost four years, but just a few years ago he was struggling to get by.

This summer Kier was nominated for the American Public Works Association Georgia Employee of the Year. City officials said this is an accomplishment for municipalities all across the state, and Kier won.

Kier helps pick up the city, piece by piece, working as a maintenance worker. He spends his days helping drivers pick up debris and bulk all across the city.

"He's the prime example for other individuals to look up to and say, 'hey you know what, this is what I want to do, I want to come to work every day, do my job and make the best of it," said Public Works Director Richard Hardy.

Hardy nominated Kier for the award. It's given to employees for their outstanding work, on the job and in the community.

Kier said he was honored by the award.

But it hasn't always been easy.

"When Franklin came to us he was not employed, he was behind in child support," said Darcy Gunter with Living Bridges Ministries. "That was giving his self esteem a beating."

Kier participated in the Transformations program. It's a twelve to fifteen month program that teaches life, employment and financial skills to help people out of poverty and stay employed.

Gunter said for many of the students, getting a job isn't the problem, it's keeping them. This program aims to solve that problem.

"It gave me the tools I needed to be succeed," Kier said. "The tools I learned doing the classes, it just helped me be a better person on the job."

Now Kier gives back by serving as a mentor, sharing his story and experience in hopes others can follow his path to success.

"We call the program Transformations, but to truly see the transformation in somebody and know that their life is different, that their relationship with their family is different, their job, all of that. That is a true blessing to get to see from God," Gunter said.

Living Bridges is hoping to have an open house on September 3, with classes starting at the new location on September 17.

The organization expects to have two graduates from the Transformations program, opening up space for new applicants at the end of the year.