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Sandy Springs nonprofit Community Assistance Center expands
by Noreen Lewis Cochran
July 18, 2012 12:28 PM | 2613 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Staff / Nathan Self<br> From left, Tamara Carrera, executive director of the nonprofit Community Assistance Center in Sandy Springs, and thrift boutique Manager Mitzi O’Connell price a jacket as American International University intern De’Morris Thomas of Atlanta looks on.
The Community Assistance Center has positioned itself for its second 25 years of service by taking over its entire 9,300-square-foot building on Hightower Trail.

Executive Director Tamara Carrera said at its open house last week the Sandy Springs-based nonprofit gained 500 square feet on its lower level when building owner Semco Productions moved to Roswell in April.

The new space, where volunteers provide groceries to Sandy Springs and Dunwoody clients, is more efficient and can deliver faster service, the Marietta resident said.

“We restructured the whole food pantry,” Carrera said about the department managed by Dunwoody resident Jacqui Brinson. “We can have 20 volunteers working at one time.”

The upgrade was cost-effective, costing only $2,500 for steel shelving which volunteers built after laying down a donated vinyl floor covering and before reorganizing the area.

“We have amazing volunteers,” Carrera said of 200 workers who complement the 11-member staff.

Unpaid helpers also benefited from the renovation, since they check in with Volunteer Coordinator Amy Kilgore on a renovated third floor formerly divided between owner and tenant.

“I think this becomes a little family for volunteers. If anyone wants to get involved, I will find a niche for them,” the Sandy Springs resident said.

Several niches form workspaces for Carrera, nonprofit spokeswoman Kristen Ristino and Office Manager Janice Haddock.

“This is the quietest but the busiest office,” Haddock said.

A conference room and classrooms, including a computer lab, complete the third-floor suite.

“One of the most popular classes is QuickBooks because it’s an in-demand job skill,” said Roswell resident Lisa Ulrich, a client service team member, said about accounting software. “We’re instituting a new financial management class, Improving Your Financial Future. We’re looking for people to teach that, especially in Spanish.”

The main-floor thrift boutique, managed by Roswell resident Mitzi O’Connell, benefited from additional sorting space on the lower level.

“CAC sorts 60,000 pounds of clothing every month, which is an incredible feat,” O’Connell said. “On a yearly basis, we sell $35,000 worth of merchandise. We would like to sell furniture, but we have no room.”

Although the nonprofit has traded up from a 1,000-square-foot Boy Scout hut at Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church in Sandy Springs, its 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. operating hours help squeeze the most use out of every square foot.

“When we came here we thought we’d never fill it up,” Carrera said. “Now we’re running out of room.”

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