Category Archives: ACSS Programs

ACSS Inaugural President & CEO Charles Edwards to Retire

Charles Edwards

The Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency’s (ACSS) Board of Directors announces the retirement of its inaugural president & chief executive officer, Charles R. Edwards, effective December 31, 2012. Upon completion of his tenure at the helm of ACSS, and after enjoying six successful careers over the span of 40+ years, Charles will spend more time enjoying his bride, and spoiling his grandchildren. He remains both passionate and committed to the mission of ACSS, and the Board is excited he will offer his services as a trusted advisor and volunteer.

Charles says, “Helping to establish, launch and position ACSS for a bright future to truly help break the cycle of homelessness in metro Atlanta has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. And, it has given me the privilege of working with some of the best people in the world!”

Under Charles’ leadership, ACSS is positioned to achieve great things:

  • We have a strong and cohesive board of directors.
  • We’ve developed bold and exciting mission and vision statements buffeted by an enduring set of core values.
  • Our sound 5-Year Strategic Plan is designed to be fully integrated operationally from each board committee throughout ACSS to each staff member.
  • The employment readiness models in our CareerWorks and Veterans Employment Assistant Programs are proven.
  • We have enhanced our Café 458 Program beyond life stabilization for people with disabilities that prevent them from working, to include a culture of helping to improve the Atlanta community through volunteerism.
  • The philosophy of “Collective Impact” by establishing strategic partnerships with strong complementary agency partners, employer partners, and the faith-based community has truly been embraced.
  • ACSS is well on its way to validating an exciting model to increase its capacity to serve people by leveraging instructional technology tools to establish satellite sites. And, we have strong support from the City of Atlanta’s government leaders.

Dana Johnson

But most of all, we have forged an exceptionally strong staff that is talented, passionate, and committed to the cause of Breaking the Cycle of Homelessness! To that extent, the Board is also pleased to name Dana B. Johnson as Charles’ successor. Dana has been with ACSS/Samaritan House for seven years and has served in various capacities, most recently as vice president of development, finance and administration. She brings a passion for nonprofit management and proven success in securing and leveraging resources to maximize outcomes.

The ACSS Board wishes Charles the best in this new phase of his life.

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ACSS Class 23 Equipped for Success

Graduates of Class #23 are career-ready thanks to ACSS CareerWorks training and some generous gifts from their keynote speaker.

After a powerful and moving speech, Jacqueline Plair-Rushin, director of global deployment and corporate services at InterContinental Hotels Group, presented each graduate with a gift consisting of a high quality rolling computer bag, professional folios and a WiFi-ready laptop computer. The graduates and audience were ecstatic!

Thanks, Jacque, for going above and beyond!

You too can help ACSS empower homeless individuals to reach their full potential to thrive in life! Take action here.

About CareerWorks: CareerWorks is an intense job-readiness and life skills program that prepares homeless individuals for permanent, full-time employment. Click here for details.

About Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency: ACSS is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in metro Atlanta and beyond. ACSS empowers homeless individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency and their ultimate potential to thrive in life. Please visit our website at We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.





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Give a suit. Change a life.

Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency is one of the recipients of the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive, which officially kicks off today.

Donate your gently used professional attire at any Men’s Wearhouse store between June 27 and July 31. You’ll be helping someone in need dress for a job interview or new employment. And, as a thank you, Men’s Wearhouse will give you 50 percent off most items in the store. Visit for more details.

We’d like to thank Men’s Wearhouse for its ongoing support of ACSS. That support is one reason ACSS’ clients are not only among the best trained job applicants, but also the best dressed!

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Cafe 458: “We’re going on summer vacation!”

We’re going on summer vacation! Not really. But we are taking advantage of the slower summer dining season to temporarily close the Cafe 458 Sunday Brunch and allow time for us to revamp the operations and menu.

The last day of brunch service of the spring will be Sunday, May 20th. Cafe 458 plans to reopen after Labor Day.

This Sunday from 10am to 2pm, we’re encouraging our faithful diners and supporters to come out for one last brunch before our temporary closing.

While the Cafe 458 Brunch is closed this summer, diners are encouraged to visit Cafe Jonah and the Magical Attic for its unique “Pay What You Think It’s Worth” Sunday Brunch. Cafe Jonah donates 10 percent of its daily sales to local charities, including Cafe 458.

Cafe 458 will continue to operate its weekday program which offers restaurant-style meals, counseling, case management and life skills workshops for homeless individuals with disabilities. Volunteer opportunities are available Monday-Friday to help prepare and serve meals. For more information on getting involved with Cafe 458, visit our website at or call (404) 874-8001.

From all your friends at Cafe 458, have a wonderful summer!

About Cafe 458:

Located in the Old Fourth Ward at 458 Edgewood Avenue, Cafe 458 Brunch is best known by locals as the place to grab a good meal while supporting a great cause. Cafe 458 Brunch opened in 2003 as an initiative to help Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency (formerly Samaritan House of Atlanta) raise unrestricted funds to support our programs to help break the cycle of homelessness. Cafe 458 is staffed primarily by volunteers, who serve as waitstaff, line cooks, and hosts.

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National Volunteer Week: Donating Time and Talent

Volunteers at ACSS' Cafe 458.

April 15-21 is National Volunteer Week, when America recognizes the generous men and women who donate their time and talents to their communities.

Volunteers are crucial to the success of Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. They come from all walks of life and fill an array of crucial roles, including career coaching, administrative support, cooking or serving food, reception desk support, facilities maintenance, marketing and public relations.

Schedules are flexible. Some of our volunteers come as part of a group for a one-time service project, such as an “alternative spring break” for college students. Others are familiar faces that our customers and clients see at regular times each week.

ACSS values suggestions from volunteers and is quick to act on innovative ideas. In short, ACSS is a place where you can make a real difference, in the organization, and in the lives of the men and women we help.

For more information on how you can get involved with ACSS, please visit our online Volunteer Center.

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ACSS Intern: “It wasn’t what I expected”

This new public service announcement, designed by Tanjuria Willis - an ACSS board member and volunteer, features some of our valued clients (VIPs).

At ACSS’ 17th graduation reception, I introduced myself to Timothy Wright as we stood in line for lunch. Timothy is studying for his Master’s Degree in Social Work at Clark Atlanta University. One of his prerequisites is an internship with Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. His is coming to an end this semester. Always curious to learn about others’ experiences with ACSS and the CareerWorks program, I asked Timothy what his internship had been like and his reply: “It wasn’t what I expected.” 

When I asked him to expand on his comment, he replied, “I was facilitating a communications class and everyone came to it prepared and motivated.  We were breaking down the class motto and there was a lot of discussion. I guess I thought that homeless people were not engaged. But this class was ready to engage.”

Whoa! That was an “Aha!” moment for me. Timothy probably speaks for so many of us when he frankly admits that he fell prey to a stereotype that all homeless people could do better, be better, if only they TRIED harder. Or, maybe they wouldn’t find themselves in this situation if they just helped themselves. But when he got to know the CareerWorks class and engaged with the people, they dispelled a myth many of us would like to believe: Homelessness is for other people. It’s not going to happen to US!

The demographic groups with the greatest increase in homelessness are women with children and military veterans. I refuse to believe that a woman with children chooses homelessness or that veterans don’t want to help themselves — not after helping their country in its time of need. Often what is lacking, though, is what ACSS CEO Charles Edwards calls a “foundation for life.”

“Leaders come from loss,” Charles said. “If you come through your struggles well, you’ve gained the skills to be an extraordinary leader.”

The ACSS staff and volunteers don’t see stereotypes. They see strength, tenacity, motivation, dedication, intelligence and spirituality. All of the people who are attending the CareerWorks program aspire to achieve their dreams. ACSS empowers those dreams every day in every job readiness class, in every job interview prep, in every graduation. Dreams are empowered. A foundation for life is laid.

Timothy Wright will leave his internship with a different concept of the homeless. That is one of the greatest achievements ACSS can make: dispelling the myths and removing the stereotypes.

Written by Barbara Hughes. Barbara is an ACSS volunteer and serves on our Marketing & Communications Committee.

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Graduation Day for ACSS CareerWorks Class 17

ACSS Class 17 Graduation.

On March 2nd, ACSS held a graduation ceremony at a new venue — Atlanta Mission’s downtown facility across from Centennial Olympic Park.

The ceremony was filled with excitement and high emotion… as usual. We graduated 27 VIPs in CareerWorks Class Number 17. To support our graduates, five prospective students for Class 18 were there — along with friends and family of the graduates, the ACSS Staff, ACSS student volunteers from the University of Michigan and a host of supporters from Atlanta Mission.

In her address to fellow CareerWorks graduates, Class 17 President Brandi Bell said, “ACSS empowers our dreams.”

You can read more about Brandi here. And please visit our Facebook page to see more photos of the event!

CareerWorks is an intense job readiness and life skills training program that continues to offer resources and support to graduates even after they gain employment.

The graduates of ACSS Class 17 are breaking the cycle of homelessness in their lives. But they could not have done it without the generous support of ACSS’ donors and volunteers. To find out how you can support future CareerWorks classes and other ACSS programs, please click here for information on volunteer opportunities and here for ways to donate.

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