ATLANTA -- The Coca-Cola Foundation, Chick-fil-A® and City of Atlanta together have donated $7 million to nonprofit City of Refuge to help transform Westside Atlanta through a vocational training and entrepreneurial program. Many of the people who will benefit are residents of Westside neighborhoods, which have been devastatingly impacted by the recession and recently became the focus of development programs.

The grant will be used to construct and operate a Workforce Innovation Hub to teach people skills to prepare for careers in auto tech and retail, the culinary arts, landscaping, security services and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) installation and repair. A computer-coding academy will also be created for young adults along with a small business incubator and accelerator for aspiring entrepreneurs. Planning for the Workforce Innovation Hub is underway, with construction anticipated to commence in the coming months and conclude September 2019.

Coca-Cola’s portion of the gift, $1.25 million, will support City of Refuge’s provision of vocational training, job readiness and entrepreneurial skills development for approximately 400 women through the 180º Kitchen Culinary Arts Academy, NAPA Auto Training Center, and the development of a Women’s Business Incubator and Accelerator Program. The grant will also support training for more than 150 men, and help them find employment in food service or automotive maintenance and repair, and provide education and training for entrepreneurs.

City of Refuge

Beyond funding, Coca-Cola Refreshments, USA, Inc., Coca-Cola’s largest U.S. bottler, will provide guidance in commercial truck driving and fleet maintenance and repair, in addition to supply chain management and expertise in food service quality and delivery

“We’re proud that our Foundation is partnering with other passionate members of the Atlanta community to support this new vocational training effort that will improve the lives of men and women, young people, parents and families throughout our Westside neighborhood,” said Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company. “There is no better time than now for progressive initiatives like this, which will help us strengthen our communities.”

The combined investment lays a solid foundation for the launch of City of Refuge’s capital campaign, “Shining the Light,” with a goal to raise $25 million by 2018 to support organization programs.

“I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited for the potential here,” said Bruce Deel, CEO and founder of City of Refuge. “These are the types of partnerships that can really change everything—more people will be served and more families will be impacted for good. That’s what matters. That’s what we’re about. I’m grateful for community leaders who share a vision for transformation and are willing to work together to see it happen.”

City of Refuge

Housed in a 210,000 square foot warehouse in Westside Atlanta, City of Refuge has served as a vehicle of light, hope, and transformation for many of Atlanta’s most marginalized individuals and families for nearly 20 years. The organization offers an emergency shelter and transitional housing, which features three hot meals every day, on-site health care, activities for children and youth, as well as vocational training and staffing services.

While City of Refuge’s primary goal is to equip individuals with vital resources to overcome obstacles and embrace independence and self-sufficiency, the organization is also aiming to provide comprehensive services necessary to reach middle class by middle age and attain self-sufficiency.

Coca-Cola has been a long-time supporter of Westside Atlanta. Since 2011, Coca-Cola has granted more than $20 million to Atlanta University Center institutions, comprised of Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University and the Morehouse School of Medicine. Funding has supported student scholarships, alumni engagement and collaborative initiatives. And, this summer, Coca-Cola awarded two micro-grants to Covenant House Georgia and Back on My Feet Atlanta, seeking to fund organizations empowering women and girls in Westside.

Read more about the Westside micro-grant Request for Proposal and grant recipients here.