CLOVER -- A Clover Area Assistance Center mainstay spent her last day with the organization Thursday, as Lake Wylie resident Dona Van Leer stepped aside as operations manager.
Van Leer said personal reasons are what made her decide to step down, particularly a desire to spend more time with family.
“For the next couple of months, what I’m going to do is be grandma,” she said.
Taking her place at the financial and special assistance agency serving families in the Clover School District area will be Sandy Stanek, a volunteer for four years who was hired recently as an assistant. By bringing in someone familiar with the organization, executive director Janie Davis says Stanek will be able to transition the work done by Van Leer smoothly.
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“She’s kind of stepping in her shoes,” Davis said.
Van Leer wishes the best for the agency that currently sees more than 2,600 clients. In her years at CAAC, Van Leer said she’s seen more and more families in need of financial assistance, and need isn’t letting up now.
“With this economy, it’s just gotten worse,” she said.
Davis said it’s a busy time for the organization, with ongoing efforts to update computer systems with an IT volunteer and work with a part-time accountant, all while maintaining food and financial services, dental and medical, utility assistance and planning for holiday giving opportunities. All while planning for a move to a second location on Church Street in downtown Clover, with the contracts being drawn.
“We continue to need donations,” Davis said. “A lot of our income right now is going toward updating our system so we can work more efficiently. It’s taking us twice as long to work here because of our computers.”
In leaving, Van Leer hopes the leaders at CAAC and an estimated 150 volunteers can continue advocating for the community in need of financial and other assistance. Based on her experience, Van Leer believes they will.
“The challenge is just to keep the community involved,” she said. “We need to get the word out to the community in need.”
Van Leer and husband Frank came to Lake Wylie in April 2002, and two months later she began serving as a CAAC volunteer. On Oct. 1, 2007, Van Leer began as operations manager with the group.
Tracy Smith, a Clover mother of three who last year used CAAC for the first time, said many people in the community don’t know how important the work done there is.
“I didn’t even think that I’d ever have to go down there for something like that,” she said, a job change for her husband creating a need for her family. “Times are hard.”
Smith called the Pilot last week to thank the community that supports CAAC, particularly the large base of donors in River Hills. Those types of stories are the ones Van Leer takes with her in leaving, and ones she hopes continue.
“I just hope that the community will keep supporting CAAC, because it’s a wonderful organization,” Van Leer said. “It’s just such a giving community.”