By Katie Fallon

While celebrating its accomplishments in 2006 as well as its 20th anniversary, the Community Action Center (CAC) is still looking to the future to better serve needy families in the community.

At its annual meeting last month, for instance, CAC staffers highlighted the number of people it was able to assist in addition to setting goals for the rest of 2007. Since its inception 20 years ago, the center’s mission has been to bring together community resources to provide assistance to people in need, to prevent homelessness and promote self-sufficiency among needy families in the Dunwoody and Sandy Springs communities.

One idea that was stressed during the annual meeting that as the population of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs has grown, so too have the programs and services offered by the CAC.

Tamara Carrera, executive director of the CAC, said that in 2006, the center’s volume of services increased 30 percent, the number of households receiving assistance increased by 37 percent, in-kind assistance increased by eight percent and financial assistance increased by 33 percent. Similarly, the number of students sent to camps through the youth enrichment program increased to 235 and holiday gifts were given to 983 children. That growth, Carrera said, was previously stalled when the CAC moved to its new permanent location on Hightower Trail in 2005.

“The growth came back in 2006,” Carrera said.

Within that growth, the CAC also answered more than 3,900 calls for assistance, served a monthly average of 569 clients, distributed more than $146,000 worth of groceries and provided rent and utility assistance to more than 80 households. In the last year, the CAC also responded to 869 requests for clothing by providing vouchers for its thrift store.

2007 not only marks the 20th anniversary of the center, but also the year it will kick off phase two of its capital campaign under the hopeful eye of new development director Brian McDonald. With the phase two funds, the CAC hopes to pay off the building in which it is now housed as well as ensure the center’s financial security by establishing a seed for permanent funding.

“The growth of the organization has been great and we’ve been doing that on the backs of our funding sources and starting with our congregations, they’ve been our lead in growing the finances of the CAC,” said board member D.E. Cutshaw.

The CAC’s president Elizabeth Igleheart because of the growth of the CAC and the community it serves, the center is hoping to make some changes in the coming months.

“The good news is more people are getting to know about us and more people need us, but the bad news is more people need us,” Igleheart said.

Currently, the CAC ‘s thrift store is only open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every third Saturday of the month. Their food pantry is also open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Igleheart said in 2007, the center hopes to extend those hours with the help of more volunteers. She said because of most people’s work schedules, the hours aren’t always convenient so the CAC would eventually like to extend the thrift store’s hours to 7 p.m. and to be open every Saturday.

To get the additional volunteers the CAC needs, Igleheart said she is hoping to reach out to organizations who haven’t yet become members of the CAC.

“There are still lots and lots of temples and churches in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs hat aren’t yet sponsors,” Igleheart said.

The CAC, though, is not just busy making plans for 2007. The year has already been a busy one. The organization teamed up with two local Curves locations for the fitness franchise’s canned food drive. From March 1 to March 10, the Curves in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody waived their service fee for new members who brought a bag of non-perishable food for the CAC. Curves is also collecting food donations for the CAC through the end of this month. 2007 marks the fourth year the CAC has partnered with Curves in the nine years the workout chain has conducted the national food drive.

In the next several months, the CAC will also be busy with many projects outside the realm of their everyday assistance programs. They are planning a partnership to offer ESOL and computer literacy classes. Similarly, they will be working with a major retailer to offer a Dress for Work program.

In September, however, the center will be hosting its flagship fundraiser. An annual event, the Vintage Affair will be held on Sept. 29 at Glenridge Hall and will include food from several local restaurants and a silent auction. For the first time, the event will be black tie.

Igleheart said the goal for Vintage Affair is to raise at least $75,000.