Dominique Mack-Collins learned at an early age that education is power.
Her grandmother shared this piece of wisdom, which has guided Mack-Collins’ life in significant ways since.
Mack-Collins serves today as the community services director for Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority. In that role, Mack-Collins works seemingly tirelessly to help operate many of the nonprofit’s programs and to collaborate with community partners and organizations that support Coastal Community Action Authority’s overall goal of providing a pathway to self-sufficiency to local residents facing challenges.
Mack-Collins has long held a passion for serving families and women, and her experience growing up in Brunswick — attending schools in this community, spending childhood afternoons in numerous after-school programs and moving between several public housing neighborhoods — informed her understanding of how this community shapes its youth into future leaders.
“My family, my history, is what made me want to be involved in social services,” Mack-Collins said.
Coastal Community Action Authority, led by CEO Tres Hamilton, focuses on a two-generational approach to helping lift Coastal Georgia residents out of poverty. The nonprofit serves nine counties and offers a wide range of services, some of which many in the community may be unaware.
The services include early childhood education, weatherization assistance, job training and placement, rental assistance, energy assistance, financial literacy, youth and family development services, meals-on-wheels and housing advocacy.
Mack-Collins has worked for the organization for nearly three years, and her leadership role expands beyond Brunswick. She also participates in housing work groups in Bryan County and runs the seniors program in McIntosh County.
Mack-Collins, a first generation college student who grew up in a low-income family, has seen firsthand how community resources like this can make a huge difference in people’s lives. Sacrifice and support from her family members played crucial roles in her life and helped her build a career through which she’s able to offer resources to community members today.
Raised by a hard-working, single mother who held two or three jobs at a time, Mack-Collins experienced the warm embrace of this community through attendance in several after-school programs and a large family who helped raise her.
“The people that influenced me the most growing up were community members,” she said.
At 14, Mack-Collins moved to Miami, Fla., with her grandparents, who helped support her educational endeavors throughout high school and college.
“My grandmother actually paid for my college education,” she said. “That’s how I went to school. When I did my first internship, my grandmother and my grandfather got me my first car … So I really owe all of my education opportunities to them.”
Her grandmother worked at a job she hated for many years, Mack-Collins said, to be able to help pay for her granddaughter’s college education.
“I went to school at Florida State, got my bachelor’s and my master’s from there and then I got my first professional job at the sheriff’s office. But before that I had a lot of internships,” she said. “All my experience has always been in social services, whether it’s in victim advocacy work, family advocacy work or even just emergency community crisis-related work.”
Mack-Collins returned to Brunswick four years ago and was a stay-at-home mom taking care of her daughter, Zora, when she learned of the job opportunity with Coastal Community Action Authority.
“I was on public assistance, meaning I had Medicaid, I had SNAP benefits,” she said. “And the day that my SNAP benefits got cut off, I got the call for this job.”
About two years before she heard about the job opening at Coastal Community Action Authority, Mack wrote down a vision for her life. Fortuitously, that description of life goals coincided perfectly with the job description she read.
“I believe in willing things out into the universe, and so I knew that this was for me,” she said.
Mack-Collins encourages others, no matter what their background is, to seek out their own education so they can take ownership of their future.
“Never be afraid to ask a question, to take a leap of faith and to educate yourself,” she said. “… I don’t mean educate yourself on just what people tell you … Go out and research for yourself.”
Her grandmother taught her that education is a power that no one can take away.
“Knowledge is the best resource that we have, besides time,” she said.