• Ellamae Arbuzinski

Meet Mercedes: Participant Advisory Council Member

Updated: May 18


Mercedes Sheard moved to Duluth in 2007 and lived in a group home until 2011. She originally connected with Community Action Duluth in 2012. Her first introduction to the organization was through the Free Tax Site where CAD helped her file her taxes. As part of the tax site program, our volunteers ask each individual who participates about other services they may need and informs them of what kind of help CAD offers. It was through this referral system that Mercedes heard of the Drive program to assist her in obtaining her license. A transportation coach helped Mercedes practice for her permit and take her test. She was also able to be connected to an individual who could help her practice behind the wheel in preparation for her driving test. In addition, she participated in the FAIM Matched Savings program as well as the Common Cents class.


When Mercedes came to Duluth in 2007, she felt like she wasn’t connected to many people and didn’t know where to start. She didn’t have much family in the city as she grew up in Minneapolis. Working with CAD and using their services made her feel empowered and less alone. The staff at CAD made her feel understood and welcome. Since her arrival in the city, Mercedes has been involved in the community in several ways. Before the pandemic, she would volunteer at Miller Dwan with children in the adolescent psychiatric unit. There she would interact with the kids in the hospital, playing games and talking to them about what was on their minds. She provided support for them when it was needed most. She was also involved with the YWCA Spirit Valley Early Childhood Education Center which had a program to support new moms. Mercedes participated in this mentorship program for several years, and she was able to connect with four mothers and guide them through their struggles.


Mercedes is part of CAD’s Participant Advisory Council, or PAC. The PAC is a committee of past participants of CAD’s programs who have deep connections in the community, and they share input on how we can improve our services. Mercedes has been on the council since 2016. She enjoys how the members of the PAC share the same goals of community improvement even if they are at different points in their life. The main goal of the PAC is to get the word out about programs CAD offers so people in the community can remain updated on what is available to them. Mercedes enjoys the camaraderie of the PAC. She has seen how CAD truly values their input, and she looks forward to working with CAD in the future on the council as well as the board of directors, which she joined in 2019, and the Equity Committee.


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