By Dan Copp, The Courier 

Houma has a new resource for those seeking to learn valuable job skills.

Goodwill Industries opened its new Opportunity Center at 1750 Martin Luther King Blvd. which will provide free job skills training.

Goodwill officials along with local dignitaries marked the grand opening Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sherry Wilmore, community coordinator of Goodwill Industries, said the facility will benefit both Terrebonne and Lafourche residents.

“This is not just for Houma,” she said. “It’s for both Terrebonne and Lafourche. You get the resource and the access. Goodwill is beyond a thrift store. Most people would tell you it’s a thrift store but it’s more expansive than just a place where you can shop. It’s a place where you shop and the funds are returned to the community, which is what funds a portion of this opportunity center. So, when you shop at the thrift store, this is where the funding goes.”

The center will offer free digital literacy classes, pre- and post-release re-entry services for those involved in the justice system and support services to youth who are aging out of foster care. The facility is equipped with a computer lab and classrooms.

“Anyone can come in,” said living skill coach Darlene McGuire. “Outsiders can use the computer lab and learn skills for resume writing, Microsoft Word, Excel and others. They can come in and build on some of their existing skills and earn certifications.”

Employment specialist Terrilyn Ruffin said the newly opened facility will also help people with barriers to employment such as those who were previously incarcerated.

“There are a lot of individuals who either lack the knowledge or computer skills needed to give them a better opportunity at securing employment,” Ruffin said. “Our computer lab will be here to assist them with employment searching and give them the skills needed to format resumes and learn interview skills. It’s a great opportunity, especially for individuals who are just being released from incarceration.”

Marilyn Chapman, Goodwill vice president of human resources, said the facility will be a valuable service to residents who are looking to improve themselves.

“We think this is a great opportunity for our clients, stakeholders and people of this community to come in and have access to training, development and services that we provide,” Chapman said. “This is an expansion of services for the community and we’re just really excited about it.”

Steve Lorio, chairman of the Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana board of directors, said the new facility represents a big part of the company’s overall mission.

“This is an opportunity to help a lot more people as far as career skills and job placement,” he said. “Goodwill is known for its retail stores but its mission is workforce development and getting people placed into jobs. So this is really the other half of our mission.”