A MESSAGE FROM
MARJORIE VANESKAHIAN BURR, ACO CEO
I don’t think there’s been a year that I have been more ready for spring to arrive! We deserve a beautiful, sun-filled, bright and cheerful March, free of Covid health scares, more job loss, ice storms with no electricity, stress over broken pipes and lack of water, and struggles to pay bills.
For many of us, March will arrive with all of the glorious benefits of springtime, of renewal and revitalizing our spirit. Covid restrictions are beginning to relax, vaccines are more available, and businesses are beginning to thrive after a year of closure or limited customer interaction.
For others in our area, the joys of the season are still in the distance. Fall was a struggle to find employment, pay their bills and keep a roof over their head. Christmastime was stress-filled as they signed up for programs to receive free toys for their children, and waited in long lines at food pantries for free groceries. The shame and despair was overwhelming at times.
The hopes of a better 2021 faded as winter held fast, vaccines were slow to come to our area, and the threat of a snow and ice storm like we haven’t seen in a decade piled on more struggles to an already tough situation. In February, ACO provided car-loads of groceries to 1452 families to feed their hungry kids. We paid rent and utilities for hundreds of families to ensure they were all safe and warm in their homes.
Through it all, ACO was ready! Early on our team took a proactive approach to our procedures and programs, doing our best to accommodate whatever issues arose. Beginning in March of 2020, we were in crisis management mode. When the client load slowly increased, we doubled up on our duties and cross-trained so that all staff could assist where needed. By fall, we were seeing three times as many families coming to ACO for help. Now we are in March 2021, and still operating safely in crisis mode while continuing to see the increased need.
As we move into Q2 of 2021, I am excited to tell you about another new program! In order to provide more personalized service in assisting families with much needed household items and clothing, we are opening the ACO CARES CENTER. The center will allow clients to shop by appointment in a safe environment to select clothing for each of their family members, household necessities, and small appliances while receiving personalized assistance. A large variety of clothing and items will be available, all in top condition and variety, in stylish options for all ages and needs. Staff and volunteers will be vital in operating the center, which will be located at 301 W. Boyd Drive (in the former Treasure Chest location). Through COVID and with the Resale Shop closed, families have been requesting items as needed from our warehouse. This new system for meeting the community needs will be a welcomed benefit for many!
The Main Street Resale Shop is in set-up mode and will be reopening soon with a new look. Read more about it below. Until further notice, the Treasure Chest store is closed to the public. Look for many new bargains at the Resale Shop and shop our home décor and furniture at the ACO Boutique, located in Watters Creek Shopping Center.
Imagine this situation….Margaret lost her job last year due to COVID and was thankful to have unemployment income while she searched for a new position. But the gap in pay and the reduction in income caused her to get behind on her rent. She has three children and is a single mother with no additional support.
Thankfully, ACO helped her last year through the Cares Act program to receive funds for three months of rent and lots of food that kept her children fed and happy. She was hopeful that 2021 would bring her world “back to normal.”
But it didn’t, and new programs for housing were scarce. ACO continued to help with groceries, and paid her electric bill one month as it got cold. But jobs were still hard to come by. And then she tested positive for COVID. Thankfully a neighbor helped with her kids as she slowly recovered. Then the coldest weather set in, and she found herself in an apartment without water- for days. Margaret laid in her cold bed at night and cried, not sure how much more she could endure.
But she remembered that friendly ACO case manager who helped her several times. She knew someone was on her side, if only to provide guidance and resources. And those volunteers at the ACO Food Pantry were so kind each week as they loaded her car with her kids’ favorites including yogurt and milk, oranges, and chicken and spaghetti. While things may be difficult a while longer, Margaret knows she’s not alone. Someone cares. ACO Cares!
For hundreds of families like Margaret’s, ACO will continue to provide weekly groceries to any Collin County family in need. The ACO Board of Directors has designated additional funds in 2021 to assist with housing and utilities for those families who don’t qualify for other programs. The new ACO Cares Center will be open for Margaret and other parents to shop for clothing and items needed for their home. The ACO Education and Employment Services programs are again in full gear to help with higher education, training, and job counseling. All case managers at ACO are certified in financial coaching to help with budgeting and spending practices. ACO is ready to help Margaret and families who need kindness, understanding and a path to financial stability.
I know that our community cares as well. I know that you are ready to help. I see this through your generous donations, your thoughtful notes of encouragement to the staff, your willingness to volunteer and support our programs. I know that ACO is ready to help these families through today’s struggles and beyond- whatever comes up, we will be ready! Are you ready to help us?
ONE MORE THING…
I can’t send you a message without a “thank you” included. I will tell you AGAIN how much your gifts and donations mean to me, and to the families we help. We can only continue to serve and support our mission with your kindness and generosity. You make it possible. I can never thank you enough, as a community and individually, for holding hands with ACO.
Happy spring! And speaking of spring- remember those items you discard from our spring cleaning efforts are welcomed at the ACO Processing Center, 2 Butler Drive. Drop off your donations Monday-Saturday, 9am-4pm. Items you no longer need are desperately needed by other families through the ACO Cares Center, or sold in the soon-to-reopen ACO Resale Shop to raise funding for vital programs.