Vacant since June 2011, the former Piccadilly Cafeteria at 2781 South Cobb Drive is now home to Everybody’s Good At Something Inc., or EGAS Inc.
EGAS Inc. aims to help kids of all ages find and develop their true talents, while learning about leadership and democracy.
Mel Catholic is the founder of EGAS Inc., but he says the kids make the decisions.
“I removed myself from the equation,” he said. “I serve as the facilitator; letting them run it.”
Catholic explained that he does this to teach the kids leadership and problem-solving skills; skills he doesn’t think are well taught in today’s schools.
“I have 16 kids that are all my executive directors right now, the reason being that it is going to teach them democracy,” he said. “They’re going to get to fussing and they’re going to have to figure out amongst themselves how to make this successful—problem solving. Because we don’t have that in the schools now because everything is tests. They’re not teaching them anything about how to handle the situation outside of the class. What I’m doing here is teaching them problem solving. They have to plan it.”
"If you aspire to do something the organization is going to aspire with you and aspire higher and basically just take you to the top of whatever you’re going to do," Aisha Moss.
EGAS Inc. offers classes in acting, ballet, interpretative dance, foreign languages, mixed martial arts, karate, culinary arts and gymnastics free of charge. The program also operates a 24-hour crisis hotline and work opportunities.
“We have a lot of programs that are in-house programs like the ‘Work and Learn’ program,” Catholic said. “The ‘Work and Learn’ program is something that’s going to be extremely beneficial that are not working as far as a regular job.
EGAS Inc. is a subsidiary of the Lottie S. Catholic Library-Music Foundation, a scholarship fund established in honor of Catholic’s mother. He has operated programs like EGAS in Mississippi and Dallas, Texas since 1998.
Catholic has had a security business in Cobb County for the past four years, but decided to launch a youth program here when Dr. Michael Hinojosa, then superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, took the job as Cobb County School District superintendent.
“When I found out he was coming to Cobb County I said, ‘OK that’s awesome,” Catholic said. “I knew him there back in Dallas and we came now to utilize our gift and talents there in this area because there’s been nothing here for a while. So this was a real big need.”
Catholic explained that he specifically chose to rent the Piccadilly location because of its proximity to Campbell High School and the number of kids of all ages in the surrounding neighborhoods.
EGAS Inc. is occupying space on Smyrna's South Cobb Drive corridor, an area that has raised concern for Smyrna residents because of its vacant buildings and lack of businesses. A citizens group, Smyrna South Cobb Drive Coalition, was even formed in July 2010 to try to affect positive change in the area.
Susan Wilkinson, Ward 5 city council member, said EGAS Inc. seems like it will have a positive impact on the community. She also noted that several of her constituents had asked for a program like EGAS Inc. while she was campaigning for city council last fall.
“When I was campaigning I do know that some mothers with teenagers that this is what they were asking for,” she said. “Something that their kids could do where they could learn skills. I think it might be helpful and a good thing.”
EGAS Inc. has already garnered a tight-knit group of participants from Campbell High School. Aisha Moss, a senior, serves on the board of directors.
“This is like an organization that basically has your back,” Moss said. “If you aspire to do something the organization is going to aspire with you and aspire higher and basically just take you to the top of whatever you’re going to do.”
Campbell senior Jasmin Jade Bedford also serves on the board and thinks she and her friends at EGAS Inc. can have an impact in the community.
“A lot of people who are involved are known and have good personalities and more people want to be like them, so younger kids will look up to them,” she said. “It’s just going to end up being like a feeder program.”
Moss and Bedford will need to help create just that to meet Catholic’s ultimate goal for EGAS Inc.
“I want to see 500 kids in here daily operating in their gift, being able to transform the age group under them, teaching them the skills that they’re learning,” he said. “And in the matter of the next three years I want to be able to have at least touched 500,000 kids. It’s very doable.”
EGAS Inc. will celebrate a soft launch Saturday, Feb. 11.