The Annie E. Casey Foundation: Helping vulnerable kids & families succeed

Community Change

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Garrett County Community Action Committee

Overcoming Obstacles, Realizing Dreams

(c) 2004 Peter Olson

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For nearly 40 years, Garrett County Community Action Committee (GCCAC) has been listening to families and developing creative solutions to their needs. In this mountainous region, harsh winters and geographic isolation can keep families from job opportunities and social supports.

Low-income families turn to GCCAC for programs that help their children thrive and child care that goes from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. to accommodate shift workers. Parents also find help in building the assets that will give their children a stronger future. To secure the critical asset of a first home, families can enroll in GCCAC's homeownership education classes and apply for low- to zero-interest loans to cover closing costs. GCCAC has worked with credit unions and banks nationwide to forgive these costs altogether for families who keep up their mortgage payments for five years.

Through Individual Development Accounts (IDA), GCCAC encourages families who save for a home, education or a small business by matching deposits two to one. Financial literacy classes teach the skills to develop a budget that supports saving. High school students can build up money for college through a Teen IDA program.

GCCAC also maintains 300 affordable rental units and provides emergency heat assistance, housing counseling and support services to families at risk of homelessness. Parents moving from welfare to work get a jumpstart in Wheels to Work, a program developed with the Garrett County Department of Social Services to offer case management and loans for purchasing vehicles to drive to work.

"GCCAC gave me the opportunity to be independent and provide quality things for my family. Even as a single mom, I could send my son to a school he really loved for free and buy a house that was affordable."

Carrie Hordubay, teacher and participant in GCCAC's First Time Homeownership Program

"This is a community with roots," says Duane Yoder, GCCAC president. "That creates a strong foundation on which to build family assets and family skills."

A Dream Within Reach

When Carrie Hordubay moved back to her parents' home in Garrett County three years ago, the 25-year-old was struggling to support an infant son on a teacher's starting salary. In the wake of her recent divorce, her dream of buying a home seemed out of reach. Then she heard about GCCAC's First Time Homeownership Program.

Through the homeownership education classes, Hordubay began saving. She set her sights on a house high school students were constructing in a GCCAC job training program. With a loan from GCCAC, Hordubay purchased the home. "As a teacher, it means a lot to me that my house was built by high school students who learned new skills," she says.

(c) 2004 Peter Olson

Media usage: Download high-resolution photo.

In the meantime, she enrolled her son in GCCAC's Early Head Start program and Wrap Around Child Care. He evolved from a withdrawn boy who hardly spoke into a happy child who looked forward to going to school every morning. "He feels safer and more comfortable now," she says. This summer, Hordubay fell in love with a fellow teacher and remarried.

Keeping a Finger on the Pulse

Started in 1965, GCCAC first developed a Head Start program to help children from low-income families enter school ready to learn. GCCAC also hired community members as neighborhood aides to canvass families about their needs. Based on the response, GCCAC began providing job training, initially by building fire stations and senior centers that gave community members the skills to become construction workers.

"Our families are deeply committed to their children and we are building on the strengths of those families to help them thrive."

Duane Yoder

Today GCCAC has leveraged millions of dollars from the federal, state and private sectors for economic and community development initiatives, including microbusiness development, affordable housing and needed facilities and its loan fund for first time homebuyers. Job skills are part of the mix, but so are energy and rent assistance, food, services that prevent homelessness and programs for senior citizens. GCCAC also remains true to its roots with parenting classes and a parent resource library that complement programs in early childhood development.

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