A 2018 image of a wide range of produce at the Community Assistance Center food pantry in Sandy Springs. Credit JASON GETZ.

North Fulton charities say families need financial assistance too

Community Assistance Center (CAC) in Sandy Springs and North Fulton Community Charities (NFCC) in Roswell served more than 15,000 people in 2019 providing food and financial assistance to families in need.

Although Tamara Carrera and Holly York, the respective executive directors, have said the nonprofits need food, money is an equal concern.

Both directors say they are concerned that a couple of months off work could send local families into a financial emergency they might not be able to recover from even after businesses reopen and their jobs return.

Each charity has provided money for rental and utilities in the past. They worry that the coming demand could exceed their available funding.

In 2018, the Community Assistance Center gave $1.8 million to clients in need of financial help. North Fulton Community Charities, which serves Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park and Roswell, gave $1.2 million. 

Carrera said in recent weeks every third email she receives from her staff is regarding a client request for financial assistance. Clients who do not pay rent on time could face penalties and legal fees when Fulton and DeKalb Superior Courts reopen. Catching up could cost families thousands. Three months of late rent plus fees could add up to more than $5,000, said Carrera.

“We will have an awful lot of people at the end of this who will have no way of surviving,” she said.

Some of York’s clients at North Fulton Community Charities (NFCC) are massage therapists, teachers and restaurant wait staff. Some new clients were previously donors, she said.

“We have to keep people fed and housed. Otherwise, in 90 days their bills are going to be three times as much. Our mission is to build self-sufficiency and prevent hunger and homelessness in the community by providing emergency assistance and education.

For now, food continues to flow from both charities.

“We are giving out enough food that our inventories are being depleted,” said Carrera with Community Assistance Center (CAC). “Eighty percent of our clientele have incomes below poverty level. They work in hotels and are nursing home attendants. Some work in landscaping.”

CAC serves Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and parts of Doraville where students attend Dunwoody middle or high school. The CAC food pantry is most in need of nonperishable foods such as rice, pasta, canned meats, canned fruits, and spaghetti sauce.

Last week, Sandy Springs donated $25,000 to CAC to help with food pantry needs. A condition for the donation was that it not be used for rental assistance.

“We have to [get the food] from all different places, Carrera said. “Even wholesale, it’s still expensive.”

If local wholesalers close or staff and volunteers are unable to get to them, CAC will purchase and issue gift cards for client families to purchase food she added.

Since 2018, the organization distributed 649,837 pounds of food valued at $951,000, according to its annual report.

Since the spread of coronavirus, NFCC has distributed food outside of its Roswell office. About 120 clients who are senior citizens usually receive Meals on Wheels but also go to NFCC to pick up a meal. Senior Services of North Fulton, which delivers Meals on Wheels, is arranging for its volunteer drivers to pickup meals from NFCC.

More than 200 Meals on Wheels deliveries are made to North Fulton each week, said executive director Ron Harlow.

Currently at NFCC, the greater need is for financial assistance. “We are still seeing a steady stream of clients,” said York. “We are trying to let the community know not to be anxious. We’ve had over 200 requests for financial assistance [in the last few weeks.] We are filling about 75 requests for orders of food per day.” Visit ourcac.org and nfcchelp.org.

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