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CADA celebrates 45 years

RICH SQUARE – It’s not every day that a non-profit corporation turns 45 years old.

On Tuesday, CADA (Choanoke Area Development Association) celebrated this landmark achievement by hosting a reception that allowed guests to reminisce about the old days and all of what CADA has done throughout the years for low-income families and individuals.

CADA is a community action agency that offers dozen of programs to low-income families and individuals, including housing, Head Start, job seeking and credit counseling.

“What we do is make sure families are self sufficient and the community is self sufficient,” said CADA’s Executive Director Sallie Surface.

CADA serves Northampton, Hertford, Bertie and Halifax counties—all of which have satellite offices with headquarters in Rich Square.

Surface said last year the agency leveraged $17 million.

It’s all a far cry from the agency’s humble beginnings in 1962, which included a budget of $1,000 and some office space on Main Street in Murfreesboro.

Surface credits the survival of CADA to the diversity of the board members, which is made up of one-third public officials, selected low-income representatives and the community at large.

She also gives credit to the several entities that have partnered with CADA along the way.

The main office moved to Rich Square in 1982 where the staff was housed in quarters a little different from the large building (built in 2000) that the organization now occupies.

“We used to be in trailers,” said Surface, pointing to photos displayed in the lobby of CADA’s headquarters.

The 13 single wide trailers often made cramped quarters for the staff members. Some employees recalled only one copier that people would have to make journeys to reach.

Surface, a 24 year employee, remembers only one trailer being air conditioned.

Along with the growth of the agency, other programs initiated by CADA have spun off to become their own organizations like CPTA (Choanoke Public Transportation Authority).

Past CADA projects have include Choanoke Meadows, a sub-division in Rich Square, Woodland-Olney Senior Apartments (the same is being done in Ahoskie with the historic Ahoskie High School) as well as Fathers in Focus, which is base on “building support system(s) fathers and their children need.”

LaKeisha Walker, with Smart Start, said in her line of work she refers people to CADA, but her connection to the agency is a little more personal than most. Her parents were assisted by CADA in the early 1970s.

“My mom took a nursing class, when they offered it, and my father took the auto mechanic class,” she said.

Walker added the organization also helped her parents with housing and gave them a family award, which is exhibited in their home.

“It’s something that they’ll pass down to other generations,” she said about the award.

“That’s a milestone,” said Arlene Moore, executive director of Smart Start, about the organization turning 45.

Moore pointed out individuals to Walker as they flipped through photo albums, marking CADA’s history.

A former 12 year employee of CADA, Moore said it’s good for the community to know there are so many services under one umbrella.

Most of CADA’s employees find pride in their job helping other people and happy to see the organization make this centenary.

“When I first came here, it was a big challenge,” said Home Ownership Assistant Calandra Cherry. “Once I found out what CADA did, helping out people, I was glad to be a part of it.”

Administrative Assistant Deborah Baker began working with CADA in 1992 and is proud of what the agency has stood for over the years.

“(CADA has) done a lot for our community that I don’t think people realized they have done,” said Baker. “I couldn’t work here if I wasn’t proud of what we do.”