Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer
Two partners in a forklift training school thank Job Junction in Jacksonville Beach, a free job training and placement center run by Goodwill, for the jump start they needed to rebuild their lives and careers.
Broke after their Houston auto body shop went bankrupt, Chris Dodd and Glenn Huebel were trying to decide whether to move to Florida or California. They flipped a coin and drove east on Interstate 10 in a Suburban that was about to be repossessed.
They landed in Jacksonville Beach in December 1999 with no jobs and just enough money for two nights in a low-budget hotel. A few days later, Huebel walked along First Street North looking for work and saw Job Junction at 108 Sixth Ave. N.
Huebel had never heard of the non-profit job center, which helped about 4,109 people in Northeast Florida find jobs in 2002. But it sounded like just the thing he and his buddy needed.
"It was just destiny, I think," he said.
Job Junction helped him get a job the next day at the Casa Marina Hotel, the historic Mediterranean Revival-style hotel that was then undergoing major renovation. Within days, Dodd joined him in refinishing the hotel's original pecky cypress ceiling, assembling furniture and tiling floors.
Two months ago, Dodd and Huebel received Goodwill's 2002 "Striving to Succeed Achievement Award" honoring the work and persistence that led them to start Forklift Safety Services. They started the training and certification school a year ago in Jacksonville.
Dodd and Huebel are now expanding the school, moving to a larger facility and offering forklift training programs in Atlanta. The school, which charges $150 for the day-long certification program, trained about 400 to 500 students last year, Huebel said. It also has arrangements to train employees at Coastal Maritime and Pilot Pen in Jacksonville.
The business partners attribute their success to the practical, encouraging philosophies they learned at Job Junction.
"We know what it takes to get a foothold," Huebel said.
Many people walk in the door of Job Junction feeling defeated and hopeless, said Valerie Baham, program manager of Goodwill of North Florida.
"We all have a story, we all have a delayed goal," she said. "The road to success is not straight. …