For our first ‘Community Conversations’ taping, host ST Billingsley caught up with Action in Community Through Service’s (ACTS) Chief Executive Officer Steve Liga, to talk about the organization.
Community Conversations is a video series we’ll be releasing to let our readers learn more about organizations making a difference in Prince William County.
Q: What’s one of the things that brought you to work with ACTS?
A: It brings me back to my routes. I actually grew up in Prince George’s County in Maryland and started off doing work with the homeless in [Washington] D.C. in high school. Working in the homeless shelters there – and soup kitchens – and loved it, and that went through college. Moved to New Jersey because that’s where my wife is from, and ended up moving away a little bit from the hunger and homelessness issue and spent the last part of my career working in substance [abuse], and it was time to move back home.
And when I found ACTS, it had everything that I wanted it – it takes care of people when they’re in crisis – the most basic physical needs, food and shelter, and their emotional and safety needs. So, it gave me a chance to come back to my roots, and learn something new, and be close to home. It’s perfect.
Q: ACTS has many parts to it. What are some of the parts?
A: Most people know us, if they know us, it’s going to be for the food pantry, which is a huge operation. When I got here I thought, ‘we’ve got a food pantry, oh that’s nice’ [but] it’s not a food pantry. 60,000 pounds of food every month. It’s massive. It’s up to 1,000 families a month come, in this area, this rich area, a thousand families come from the local area here and get a week’s worth of groceries. It’s powerful. So, a lot of folks know us for that.
Other folks know us for our homeless shelter. We have a shelter that’s been on Main Street in Dumfries since 1969. So, it’s like the beacon of Main Street – that light is always on. Those are two things that folks pretty much know, and if it’s not, it’s probably the thrift store.
And the thrift store has been around for a number of years. It started out of a closet and thrift stores are popular – they’re all over the place now – but ours is the only one in the area that truly keeps the money right in the local community. We’re not a multi-national corporation. It stays here, and helps us do the work that we do. It’s the only part of our operation that actually brings in any money, and that money goes right back into the services that go out.
Q: So one of the things that you have coming up is an online food drive that has to do with fresh fruits and vegetables. So, we were talking earlier and you were talking about that there’s some challenges during certain times of the year. What are some of those challenges with fresh fruits and vegetables?
A: We like to not just give out macaroni and cheese. If somebody’s going to come to us we want to make sure that we take care of their needs. If they’re diabetic or they have salt issues – you name it – we try and accommodate that. And we want people to get a well-rounded experience, so people come and get breads, and they get their macaroni and cheese, and their cereals and their meats. But everybody gets a fresh bag of fruits and vegetables.
Over the summer, that’s easy to come by. The local farmer’s markets bring us thousands of pounds – it’s wonderful. We actually share with other food pantries. During the winter, it’s tougher. We’ve got great support from our local supermarkets but, fresh fruits and vegetables are harder to come by. So my food pantry manager Breanna, she came across an organization that does online food drives. People go on to the site, they purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables that they want, and then that organization delivers them to us, fresh, to give out to the community. It’s a fabulous idea.
She said, ‘Can we do this?’ I said, ‘We can do this next week.’ So it’s actually going to start within a couple of days, and you can find out information on our website about it – it’s going to be very cool.
If you would like to donate to the online food drive, click here.
Liga will be back in the future to talk with What’s Up Prince William about ACTS’ crisis and trauma assistance programs.
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