Community Action For Improvement, Inc. (CAFI) held a meet and greet for employees Dec. 20 to introduce their newly appointed Executive Director Edna S. Foster, who stepped into the position December 2. Foster previously worked as a program administrator for Georgia for five years, and before that was the state Faith and Community Based Director for the state.
CAFI is a national non-profit organization, established in 1964, aimed to help reduce poverty. The Georgia chapter is based in LaGrange and provides aid to families in Troup, Carroll, Heard, Coweta, Meriweather, Douglas, Harris and Muscogee counties.
“My first task is going to be getting the word out about the services we provide,” Foster said. She also said she wants to become more visible in other communities and collaborate with other organizations.
Friday’s meet and greet was an implementation of Foster’s goals as executive director for community involvement and staff development.
Troup BELL Parents as Teachers Supervisor, Alfreda Edmondson, was the guest speaker and spoke to employees on staff development. Edmondson presented as her stage personality “Mama Hope” and gave a lively speech on how to “do the right work, the right way.” She spoke to employees on character and how to model that in their roles at CAFI.
CAFI services include Head Start for children ages 3-5 and Early Head Start for pregnant women and infants three years and younger. The Head Start program is their largest sector with over 1,000 children enrolled.
“We ensure children are healthy and able to learn…when they leave us they are ready to go into public school ready to succeed,” Harris County Headstart Director Angela Jackson-Owens said.
Their social service sector is aimed at helping families become self-sufficient whether that is by providing help with affordable housing, job searches, educational services, or utility bills.
CAFI also has a weatherization sector helping families create energy effecient homes and lower utility bills. According to Weatherization Director Randy Cash, they have helped over 1,000 homes in the last four years in eight counties.
CAFI’s services are all income based as their mission is to eliminate poverty.
According to Foster, their biggest struggle is budgetary problems. CAFI’s weatherization sector is currently on a five-week hold until they receive further funding which they expect in the beginning of January.
“You cant do business without the funding to do so and we have people coming to our doors all the time looking [for funding],” Foster said.
Funding for CAFI relies on federal and state grants as well as local donations from public and private sectors.
Minnie Robinson, who has been with the organization since its formation, said the founding mission was to “eliminate poverty by organizing child-care, employment, better housing and nutrition programs.”
“We are suppose to assist families and carry them from A to Z.” Robinson said.
CAFI used to rely on volunteers, but now is employed by paid staff with the help of volunteers.
CAFI’s board is comprised of 27 members led by Chairman Richard English Jr. who has been with the organization for 37 years.