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Community action can pave the way to self-sufficiency

By Tonya Crawford

Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency

Sabrina Harris’ story is an example that “community action” works to change people’s lives in a positive manner.

Sabrina first got involved with Salisbury Rowan Community Action Agency programs when she enrolled her two young sons in the agency’s Head Start program in East Spencer (later transferring to Price Head Start in Salisbury).

In the 1960s, Head Start programs were established to ensure that all children have access to quality early childhood education regardless of family income. In addition to the quality education that Head Start children receive, SRCAA’s Head Start program provides the entire family access to qualified family development specialists, trained to help the entire family reach economic self-sufficiency by the time the child enters primary school.

During Sabrina’s first home visit with the SRCAA family development specialist, the specialist helped Sabrina determine that her goal in life was to become a self-sufficient small business owner. She has always had an undeniable passion for designing and crafting beautiful dresses. For years, she’s been sewing dresses using an old sewing machine given to her by her mother.

Additionally, Sabrina was born with a hearing impairment. However, being hearing impaired has not deterred her from wanting more out of life for herself or her family. Sabrina stated, “I do not want a disability to define who I am. I want to set a strong example for my children.”

When she and her family started with the Head Start program, Sabrina began to develop a home business idea related to her talents with sewing. However, she needed more resources and time to get transition her home business into a store front business that would become a source of self-sufficiency and a local employer.

With the help of the family development specialist, Sabrina was referred to a SRCAA community partner — the Small Business Center at Rowan Cabarrus community Colleges (RCCC). Working with Barbara Hall and the other dedicated staff at RCCC, Sabrina fine-tuned her business model and fully elaborated her vision for developing her business.

Having children enrolled in the Head Start program gave Sabrina some time to focus on her entrepreneurial dream. However, she discovered she needed more time away from providing child care to really put the pieces of her small business together. Because the goal of SRCAA is to promote self-sufficiency, the SRCAA center director approved her request for extended day services (allowing more child care coverage by the agency) to continue building up her small business. The family development specialist also referred Sabrina to the state Vocational Rehab program, which offers assistance to disabled people to start their own businesses.

After her own hard work using the resources provided by SRCAA and its community partners, Sabrina can now boast that she is the proud owner of Sabrina Bougie Styles, located at 1008 S. Main St. in Salisbury. Her enterprise is an alterations and dressmaking business tailored to fit any budget. As a mark of her success, her business has become a member of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

The driven business owner’s long-term goals for Sabrina Bougie Styles is to open another store and expand her staff to “artistic minds for fashion.”

Sabrina gives back to our community by sharing her talent for sewing. She teaches “Bougie Styles Summer Camp” at the Salisbury Park and Recreation Center, where local youth learn to develop basic alteration and sewing skills with all materials provided by her. At the end of the program, they are asked to sew and present what they have learned.

Sabrina loves spending time with her husband and children during her free time. As Sabrina says, “Family is everything.”

Tonya Crawford is director of administration, planning and communications at Salisbury-Rowan Community Action Agency.

SRCAA is a nonprofit agency that provides services to working families and low-income children in Davidson, Rowan, Cabarrus, Moore, Montgomery and Stanly counties.

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