More than a handout…

Many times we hear that the community perception of ACO is that we provide food and rental assistance to Allen area families in need. And we do. However, we do SO MUCH MORE.

First of all, ACO supports families county-wide. While we began as an agency mainly supporting families in Allen and surrounding neighborhoods, for years now families from all corners of the county have reached out to ACO for assistance. That is why the ACO Board of Directors voted several years ago to use the name ALL COMMUNITY OUTREACH instead of Allen Community Outreach.

Second, while food operations/ACO Food Pantry is a major service to our community, we provide more than a handout for groceries. Financial support for mortgage and rental assistance, and help with utilities keep families in their homes. But we do much more than help families who are behind on their bills.

Just this past month we’ve had four graduates of the GED program. Providing educational assistance, whether with GED or higher education and training, is a major component of providing a path to financial security- which is ACO’s mission. Two grads last week were actually siblings, and by graduating with their high school equivalency we made a major impact on that family. Year round ACO provides GED support and tutoring to adult students who would otherwise face roadblocks without this level of education.

Education also extends to financial literacy and budgeting, something that can make a huge impact on someone who may not realize they must make some hard decisions and critical changes to their lifestyles to make ends meet or to get ahead. You’d be surprised at the families who bought a car without thought of how much it would cost for insurance and maintenance, who rented a home that was more than half of their income, or who never thought they would need savings set aside for emergencies. They never learned how to make sound financial decisions.

ACO volunteers and staff are providing valuable training and guidance to clients in search of employment. Workshops for goal setting, budgeting, resume writing, and interview skills are vital services for many local individuals in need of a higher paying job. Appropriate clothing for job interviews or a new job is available at the ACO Cares Center. Providing families with a CARES CARD to use like cash for the items they need and helping them plan and budget how they will use that credit is part of the education process.

Recently a woman had her cart at the ACO Cares Center filled with much needed clothing items, household items like detergent and diapers, and a shiny red coffee pot. As she shopped for what she needed, she picked up and put back the coffee pot several times. She came to the Cares Center Check-out with the pot in her cart. As our staff added up her total she made the wise decision to again put the pot on the shelf and not use her limited credit for it.

She said, “You know I just love that red coffee pot because it is so cute, but I don’t even drink coffee! I have other things that I really need.” Those little decisions lead to making better big decisions.

Having a special type of credit to spend like cash on items at the ACO Cares Center is a teaching moment for many families as they learn to budget and plan ahead for expenses and begin to break the cycle of poverty.

So YES, ACO gives free food to hungry families. And ACO helps with financial assistance for rent and utilities to keep families in their homes. But we offer a path to financial stability and independence through our programs and services, designed to guide, educate and locate sustainable employment.

It goes without saying that your donations make it possible for ACO to continue to provide the support, counsel, programs and services that are vital to Collin County families who are struggling financially. Whether it is your financial gifts, your donations of new school supplies and backpacks for our FILL THE BUS Collections, groceries to the ACO Food Pantry, gently used household items and clothing for our resale operations, toys and gifts for children at Christmastime, volunteer time or simply your mention to friends and neighbors of our critical mission, all of the above make it possible to care for our community! Thank you for joining hands with ACO.




Last month ACO’s Board of Directors held a Mid-Year Retreat to review the current programs and services of our agency, how we have grown through the last 18 months of challenges and increased need in our community, and to determine our needs in the future. I want to personally thank each of our Board members for their incredible commitment, support and their time to give back to their community through their leadership.

Please extend a “thank you” to these incredible directors, as they make our mission possible. Brad Hempkins, President; Ross Mesquita, Treasurer; Robin Sedlecek, Secretary; Karen O’Connor, Vice President; Amy Gnadt, Immediate Past President; Darion Culbertson; Matt Foster; Connie Cagle; Nathan Clarke; Keon Byrd; Dr. Robert Schwab; Shubha Srivatsa; Randy Sandifer; Marianna Sennour; Mary Beth Hardesty-Crouch; Neera Yanus; Ken Myers; Cheryl Loving.

A special thanks to ACO BOARD PRESIDENT, Brad Hempkins for his many years of dedication and leadership to the organization.

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