Taking Human Services on the Road
Oct 08, 2013
North Fulton Community Charities had applied for Bank of America’s Neighborhood Builders program in years past. But, it wasn’t until the agency thought big that it received the award. “This year, when we were filling out the application, we basically were dreaming on paper,” said Barbara Duffy, the agency’s executive director for the last 23 years. “When the call came that the bank was interested in our request and looking to invest, no one was more surprised than we were.”
For 30 years, the agency had worked to prevent homelessness in Fulton County, Georgia. They struggled, however, to provide families in rural parts of the country with the emergency assistance they needed when incomes were interrupted. That’s why the organization focused its successful Neighborhood Builders application on the procurement of a 35-foot RV, which today serves as its mobile office.
The mobile office sets out from Roswell each Wednesday to service families in Johns Creek. On board is a case manager who sees clients by appointment during stops at local libraries and churches. The case manager offers families assistance with everything from food and gas to rent and adult education. “You can put Band-Aids on folks all day long and it may not change the situation,” said Duffy. “If you can keep that family going with Band-Aids and give them the tools they need to find a job or take care of their budget…then you created a long-term improvement in their ability to sustain themselves.”
North Fulton Community Charities also meets the short- and long-term needs of families through its food pantry, thrift shop and education center in Roswell. The agency serves an estimated 100 families per day and 5,000 families per year – 11,500 individuals – through various other programs. The thrift shop provides hundreds of families with low-cost clothing and furniture, in addition to the 2,000 families eligible for vouchers. Bank of America employees work as volunteers across these locations.
New last year is the agency’s Education Center, which offers free classes designed to help adults find jobs, achieve financial stability, and become leaders in their families and communities. Current class offerings include: Money Matters, Homebuyers Workshop and Citizen Class. One graduate recently returned to North Fulton Community Charities to share her success story. She came to the agency for rent, enrolled in job coaching, became a retail store manager and is now pursuing a career in real estate.
Duffy encourages local individuals and businesses to support her cause, because families so easily slip into homelessness. During the height of the recession, she saw several volunteers became clients. “They were personally impacted by the loss of a job and were finding themselves on the other end of the spectrum,” she said. “A good many of them are now back on their feet and are back on the other side, again helping us.” Bank of America and its employees continue to do the same.