Cobb Cares, which raised money to help disadvantaged families have a better Christmas, is being discontinued because of a lack of funding and staffing, said Center for Family Resources executive director Jeri Barr, the only member of Cobb Cares board who has served since the program was started in 1987.
Cobb Cares was the brainchild of former Marietta Daily Journal general manager Jerry Huff, who wanted to raise money to help people at Christmas in a similar way to what he had done while working at a paper in Texas. Barr said she suggested to him that donations be made to the Center for Family Resources (then Cobb Emergency Aid) because they wouldn’t be tax deductible if they were made to the paper.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas each year, the Journal ran a short story each day on a family, with peoples’ names changed for confidentiality, telling of the struggles they faced and how readers could help them by donating to Cobb Cares.
Six organizations — CFR, Cobb Senior Services, the Cobb Division of Family and Children’s’ Services, United Way, the YWCA and Cobb Legal Aid — were collaborating on Cobb Cares, Barr said. After the estate of Marietta millionaire and journalist George Keeler left Cobb Cares $500,000 in 1996, the organization became its own 501(c) 3, with board members from the organizations whohat had collaborated on it. The donation also allowed Cobb Cares to assist people year-round.
The collaborating organizations all appointed case managers to work with Cobb Cares, Barr said.
But in recent years, the money from the Keeler Estate has dwindled to around $40,000, Barr said. The economic recession also led to fewer donations, while some residents spread their donations around to multiple non-profits. Barr said that in a good year, Cobb Cares would typically see donations of between $40,000-$50,000.
“We now struggle to be at $30,000,” she said.
In addition, the lean financial times have resulted in the groups that partnered on Cobb Cares to lay off workers, which meant it began to be difficult to find people to work as Cobb Cares case managers, Barr said.
YWCA of Northwest Georgia executive director Holly Comer, a Cobb Cares board member and former chair, said that the agency’s bylaws call for the remaining funds left from the Keeler Estate and other sources to be split among the six agencies that work with Cobb Cares.
“I think we’ve fulfilled the intent of the donor and the Marietta Daily Journal,” Comer said. “Over the years, the community has been very, very generous. Even when times are tough, people have given to Cobb Cares or our organizations individually.”
Comer said people can still give to the organizations that supported Cobb Cares, and they would use the money in ways, within their own missions, similar to what Cobb Cares would do.
“It could go to help somebody with a roof or to build a ramp,” she said. “It gives us some dollars to help out who might need it.”
For information on donating to the YWCA, call (770) 427-2902, or call (770) 428-2601 for information on the Center for Family Resources. For Cobb Senior Services, director Pam Breeden, call (770) 528-5355; for the Division of Family and Children’s Services, director Ron Scroggy, call (770) 528-5000; for the United Way, regional director Catherine Owens, call (770) 421-8344 or call (770) 528-2565 for Cobb Legal Aid, director Cathy Vandenberg.