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story.lead_photo.caption Joshua Turner, of Goodwill, checks out customers Wednesday at the store located at 2821 S. Ten Mile Drive. Goodwill merged with the MORE Group. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

MERS Goodwill merged with another Mid-Missouri nonprofit organization earlier this week.

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The regional Goodwill organization has merged with the Missouri Rehabilitation and Employment Group (MORE Group) as of Jan. 1.

Staff members from MORE Group — there are about 15 — are to transfer over to MERS Goodwill on Jan. 31. MERS Goodwill serves most of Missouri, excluding the Kansas City area and northwest Missouri, and it serves portions of Illinois.

The merger will allow the organization to improve its employment services in the Columbia and Jefferson City areas, said Dave Kutchback, president and chief executive officer of MERS Goodwill.

"We are excited to have this merger," Kutchback said. "We've got a store in Jefferson City. It's one of the ways we deliver services to individuals — is by hiring them. Sometimes they get their first job and then step up into their careers."

The two organizations share similar missions of helping empower people.

MERS, which employs 2,300 people, is also the largest provider of youth employment services in the state, Kutchback said. It provides employment services for people with disabilities, those who are victims of domestic violence and people who have faced criminal convictions.

"We've got a number of programs for people who need that second chance," Kutchback said. "Sometimes, when somebody makes a mistake, it's almost a life sentence. They need a second chance to not only rebuild their lives — not only for themselves, but for their families."

The MORE Group's mission is to promote individualized, quality services that result in successful relationships between persons with disabilities and businesses. It strives to allow people to create value through their work and let them be recognized for their contributions to the greater good, according to its website.

MORE Group has been providing services in Jefferson City for about 10 years, said Greg Wingert, president, CEO and founder of the group.

The group serves about 200 clients annually, Wingert said. Working primarily with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, it maintains about a 70 percent placement rate.

"The merger is important for us because it connects us with more resources," Wingert added.

Mark Arens, executive vice president of MERS Goodwill, said the partnership will allow the nonprofit to work with more families, despite family members' disabilities or income limitations.

"We're not having to say, 'You've got a disability, so you're better served by this organization.' We are always cognizant of the silos that exist," Arens said.

The needs of people seeking employment services are "wildly different," he said.

And the inclusion of the group gives MERS Goodwill a basis for expansion of its services, Kutchback said.

MORE Group, as a separate entity, "will eventually close its doors," Wingert said. The organization, which has an office at 1401 Southwest Blvd., will do so, possibly in March.

"The reason for excitement in this merger is all the possibilities for the future with the expansion of services," Kutchback said.

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