The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded $423,459 to Wilkes Recovery Revolution Inc. (WRR) to support the organization’s new program, “Healing Our Workforce.”

WRR will use the funding to provide peer support and education and employment opportunities to those seeking recovery from substance abuse disorders, said Devin Lyall, WRR’s executive director.

WRR applied for the grant in January and it was awarded late last week.

WRR is in the process of securing a walk-in location for this program, Lyall said. An announcement of the location will be made in the near future.

“Golden LEAF is proud to support Wilkes Recovery Revolution in providing employment opportunities to those who are seeking recovery from substance abuse disorders,” said Scott T. Hamilton, Golden LEAF president and chief executive officer. “This initiative will help build the skilled workforce to meet the needs of employers needing to fill quality and sustainable jobs.”

Over the next two years, the grant will fund personnel, supportive services, equipment and administration to connect individuals seeking recovery to employment by providing clients with supportive services and training and certifications in manufacturing and industrial maintenance skills, nurse aide I and skilled trades in construction, Lyall said.

Through Healing Our Workforce, state-certified peer support specialists called “peer navigators” will support WRR clients in again becoming members of the local workforce, Lyall explained.

In addition to the hiring of these navigators, the grant provided by Golden LEAF over the next two years will fund certification courses in manufacturing, industrial maintenance, nursing, construction work and other skilled trades that will lead to employment in the local economy, she said.

“I want to thank the Golden LEAF Foundation for helping us provide a second chance to those in recovery while helping to boost the local economy by investing in our workforce,” Lyall said.

Healing Our Workforce, came about following the work of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the UNC School of Government and the Health Foundation in Wilkes to create COPE, a community opioid prevention and education team, and from Lyall’s participation on the Substance Abuse Advisory Council of the Appalachian Regional Commission. Their recommendations highlighted the need for greater investment in workforce development, particularly for those dealing with substance abuse disorders.

“We know that individuals want to work but we must make sure they receive the guidance and support they need to find meaningful employment,” said Lyall.

WRR will partner with other agencies, including Wilkes Community College and NC Works, to provide the skills training program funded by Golden LEAF. Once a needs assessment is completed, the peer navigators will make direct referrals so that their clients can get the education they need for job placement.

WRR will also partner with the Wilkes Public Health Dental Clinic and with other organizations in the county to address visual, dental and other issues that might serve as barriers to employment. And through the program, WRR will be doing outreach to dozens of local businesses to create a recovery friendly environment, including distributing window stickers to show that these businesses understand and support those in recovery.

Since 2016, WRR has worked to advance substance misuse, recovery-based services in the county. Its mission is to create a climate in the county where recovery is made possible by “restoring hope, repairing lives and rebuilding community.”

“We would like to also say thank you to our community, donors, and partners for your continued support,” Lyall said. “We know complex problems are never solved alone.”

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