The building at 1000 Goodwill Ave. is one of 1,100 sites in the federal government's Community Action Partnership, founded in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. Three years of planning and construction transformed the building from a former industrial and office facility to its present use as a sheltered workshop, a food pantry and a financial counseling center.
Funding for the job came from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development and the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
DHCD Director of Community Services Block Grant Reginald Stanfield said, "The folks at DCS are people who will always remain with me as a group with a purpose."
Noting the difficulties in fighting poverty, he said, "It will seem impossible until it's done. But we can do it."
The site offers services designed to help vulnerable individuals achieve and maintain a stable, independent lifestyle. Its location came after careful consideration of the community's needs.
DCS Director and CEO Santo Grande said, "We made the choice because it's in town," where clients can walk, ride bikes or use Delmarva Community Transit buses to reach the site. Program Manager Michelle Nichols said, "We're just thrilled about the facility and the ability to provide services the county so desperately needs."
Cambridge Mayor Victoria Stanley said, "I do want to congratulate everyone." Cambridge City Council Commissioner Gage Thomas said, "Thank you for your years of service to this community," adding that it would take six or seven agencies to do all that DCS does.
At the pantry, individuals or families are provided with groceries once a month, with quantities based on the size of the household. Applicants are referred from the county's Department of Social Services, after their needs have been verified. Mr. Grande said the pantry now distributes 1,000 bags of groceries a month to unduplicated households in Dorchester County alone. "That's how bad things are out there," he said.
Vocational training of individuals with developmental disabilities takes place in a controlled and supervised environment, where the workers learn job skills, participate in the community and earn money. As part of the renovation project, a wing has been added to the original building. In the new area, trainees have a bright and spacious area in which to assemble and pack mechanical parts needed nationally and internationally.
"These folks are doing work that goes all over the world," Mr. Grande said. A glass-walled nursery is part of the building. Plans are being made to train individuals with developmental disabilities and members of the general public in horticulture.
In terms of financial counseling, home foreclosure assistance is available to everyone regardless of income. A counselor will advise a client at no charge on how to solve financial issues that could lead to the loss of a home. Rental assistance is available as short-term financial aid. Free income tax preparation is especially valuable to low-income citizens, who may not be aware of deductions to which they are entitled. It also helps them avoid unscrupulous preparers who take advantage of the poor.
Housing rehabilitation aims to conserve local housing to provide a decent living environment for low-and-moderate income individuals and persons with disabilities. Some typical repairs under this program include ramps and bathroom retrofit, and other projects related to mobility and access. Leaders at DCS are looking forward and indentifying needs. "Our organization is fluid, it continually grows," Mr. Grande said. "DCS will be here in the future."
Those attending the event included DCS Board of Directors Member the Rev. Douglas Albert, Dave Wooten representing State Comptroller Peter Franchot, representatives from State Senator Richard Colburn's (R-37) office, Dorchester County government officials, Director of the Dorchester County Department of Social Services Bill McDonnell, Pam Gregory of the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore and Kelly Malone of the Benedictine School.
For information on the Community Action Center, call 410-901-2991 or visit www.dcsdct.org.