By Gerhard Schneibel

Today’s economy provides opportunities for charity large and small, and High Point Elementary School second-grader Callie Falciglia is making her own contribution with the help of her parents and members of the Glenridge-Hammond Neighborhood Association.

Callie offered her red Radio Flyer wagon for the purpose of collecting food throughout her Sandy Springs neighborhood to benefit the Community Action Center (CAC) food pantry.

Thaea Lloyd, whose house at 570 Valley Lane serves as a drop point, said the neighborhood in the first week collected more than a full wagon load of cans, nonperishable food and household items any family would need.

“We don’t know how to solve the economy, but we do know how to collect cans,” she said. “We’re also hoping that it will encourage other neighborhoods to do the same. It’s very simplistic, so that everybody understands: If everybody gives a can a week, then that fills the shelves.”

Tamara Carrera, the executive director of the CAC, has seen a 30 percent increase in visits to the food pantry, which is distributing 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of food a month.

“The donations have increased, because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to open the pantry, but the amount we’re giving out is just that much more,” she said. “We’re asking everybody and their brother to donate, and people are being very generous, but for every donation that comes in, it goes out twice as much.”

Lloyd challenged the High Point, Mount Vernon Woods, Aberdeen Forest and Heards Ferry neighborhoods to beat Glenridge-Hammond in collecting cans. About 500 houses are in the neighborhood, split between Tibby DeJulio’s Dist. 5 and Rusty Paul’s Dist. 3 on the City Council.

Callie’s dad, Doug Falciglia, is vice president of the neighborhood association. He said the neighborhood has grown at “kind of a sensible pace.”

“When the collapse happened, I think the home values held truer to their actual values,” he said. “As far as the neighborhood association is concerned, one of our primary goals — if not the primary goal — is to encourage a community spirit. This is a common effort on the part of the neighbors, and if we can instill that spirit, I definitely think that’s one of the things we want to do.”

The neighborhood also is collecting pet food for the PAWS Atlanta animal shelter on Covington Highway in Decatur.

“I am a big animal lover, and I just wanted to help,” Callie said. “I don’t want them to go out of business so there’s not enough place for stray cats and dogs.”

Lloyd said Glenridge-Hamond is “sort of a common-sense neighborhood.” She hopes the food collection will be ongoing.

“We’re hoping people will make donating part of their weekly routine,” she said. “I’m sure there are neighbors amongst us who are experiencing difficult times that we don’t know about. They should know the Community Action Center is there for the people of Sandy Springs.”

Falciglia said he and Callie haven’t had to spend much time discussing the recession, and they’re lucky. “We don’t waste, we recycle. … She understands that. We kind of adapted to it before it really happened, but we still have an appreciation for it and for people who are maybe losing their jobs and need help to feed themselves.”