Phin Hitchcock started a mission years ago to provide men with job skills and a second chance.
His quest has evolved into an Augusta business, Taproot, which he founded in January with partners GreIg McCully and William Lanier. Taproot specializes in building outdoor cooking furniture and wooden children's toys.
"All this time, I've tried to give, especially men that don't have jobs, a sense of purpose and team-building with restoration of old houses," Mr. Hitchcock said.
Mr. Hitchcock has a history of outreach work, including starting a job skills training program through his ministry, Fireside Ministry, and helping to build Heritage Academy on Greene Street.
All three co-owners are avid woodworkers. Their employees are men from Mr. Hitchcock's job skills program and the Salvation Army's Enterprise Team Job Skills Training Program.
Mr. Hitchcock thought it would be a good idea to build tables using laborers who could benefit from the training.
"The name of the company goes hand in hand with what we're trying to do. The taproot of a tree, or specifically an oak tree, is the root that provides support for a tree until it can create its own root system. Then the taproot breaks off, and the tree is self-sufficient," Mr. Lanier said.
The mission is to build self-esteem and teach a skill so the workers can acquire a job, perhaps with a contractor, he said.
The partners said they hope to hire permanent workers eventually.
James Bohannon, a carpenter for 30 years, has been working at Taproot for about six weeks through the Salvation Army. He lost his construction job in Atlanta during the economic downturn and returned home to Augusta to regroup.
"I come down for a few hours a day. We enjoy it. Knowing Phin is a plus, too. He may be able to set me up with some people that need some help," Mr. Bohannon said.
Rebecca Wallace, the Salvation Army's director of development, said the program's 16 participants rotate working at Taproot.
The men have all been homeless at one time and receive training in different skills, she said.
Taproot's location, the former Schweitzer glass company, had been vacant for seven years. Mr. Hitchcock believes the address, 222 Second Street, reinforces their mission. Revelation 22:2 discusses the Tree of Life, which yielded fruit every month and whose leaves were "for the healing of the nations."
"So it's a little taste of heaven. God's into details. It's been a real fascinating journey," Mr. Hitchcock said.
The business is the only distributor in Georgia and South Carolina for Grill Dome, a line of outdoor egg-shaped, high-tech ceramic grills.
The tables, which come in six different sizes, are made from several types of wood and contain recycled materials, such as slate from chalkboards.
Taproot is looking for distributors to sell the tables and dealerships to sell the Grill Dome product.
By LaTina Emerson Augusta Chronicle.