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Chamber award for community service: Anni Skowneski

Posted 6 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Case manager at Community Action helps families in need

Photo by Sue Cook – Anni Skowneski stands by the Community Action sign on East State Street in Albion.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

ALBION – Anni Skowneski, 27, will be receiving the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award. The case manager for Community of Orleans & Genesee works with many local families. She was surprised to be recognized by the Chamber.

“I got the award letter and I had to read it four times,” Skowneski said. “I was shocked and humbled. I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for all of the people behind me: my husband dealing with me coming home late at night, my director and executive director helping me with these enigmas I deal with every day, the volunteers and the staff. I feel like this award wasn’t just for me. It’s for all the people that helped me to do what I do.”

Skowneski specifically deals with emergency services at Community Action helping people in crisis who have had situations such as a loss of utilities or housing, but even going as far as to help with car repairs or insurance so that a person still has a way to go to work. Everything is dealt with on a case-by-case basis to provide the best solution. She can also provide referrals to other organizations, such as the Department of Social Services.

Provided photo – Anni Skowneski assists with backpack and school-supply drives.

Skowneski also helps with events such as the Easter egg hunt, the children’s carnival in Bullard Park, job fairs, holiday baskets, school supplies, coat giveaways and the Angels in Action program.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to feed the homeless,” she said. “I would beg my parents to let me go feed the homeless. When we would make dinner, I would want them to take me out and find a homeless person so I could give them my dinner.”

“My mom is the coordinator at Eastern Orleans Community Center (in Holley) and she’s been there 14 years,” Skowneski said. “I kind of followed in her footsteps. I’ve lived a life that has made me see poverty first hand, so it gives me that better understanding of the need no matter where you are. Seeing that need has made me want to help others. I’ve always been like that.”

“That’s the beauty of this job,” she added. ” I’ve gotten to see so many youth do such great things. It is absolutely phenomenal. The FFA here in Albion is beyond amazing. The fourth graders over at the Student Leadership Council at the Albion school, they are doing wonderful things.”

Skowneski moved from Steuben County to Orleans in 2000 after her mother came to the area. She is currently a Waterport resident. Skowneski worked at CRFS for a little while, then returned to school to further her career. She went to Genesee Community College for human services.

“Where we moved from there, there weren’t many opportunities for me there. I wasn’t going down a very good path,” she said. “I’m very honest about that. I’ve had my bad choices. I think moving out here helped me turn that around. I fear for where I would have been.”

Skowneski recalled a time after moving to the area while helping at the center in Holley that meant a lot to her and inspired her to help in this area.

File photo by Tom Rivers – Skowneski leads local Boy Scouts on a tour of the food pantry at Community Action. The Scouts helped collect food for the pantry last November. Skowneski is coordinator of the food pantry.

“Being a part of their holiday distributions really opened my eyes,” she said. “A gentleman had come in one year, very upset and emotional that he couldn’t provide Christmas for his children. We had his family adopted for the holiday. The following year he came in and handed us money to help out other families. I was only about 16 years old and I bawled my eyes out. I was so overwhelmed with how he wanted to give back.”

An internship during college brought her to Community Action. In February 2012, the previous case manager left the position and Skowneski was asked to temporarily fill in. On Oct. 9, 2012, after her graduation, she was hired permanently.

Skowneski has received two other big awards from Community Action in her two years as case manager. In April 2013, she received Rookie of the Year. In April 2014, she was given the Patti Rupnig Award for her commitment, professionalism and dedication to helping those in need and going the extra mile.

“I want to stay here in this position. I like what I do,” she said. “I’ve gained quite the rapport with my clients as well as with other agencies. There’s not many agencies out there that do this work. I don’t see myself working with any other population. Some people go into geriatrics or working with children, but this is more broad. It’s a new thing every day and a new client every hour. It’s exciting and I feel like I have so much more to do here.”

File photo by Tom Rivers – Skowneski works with several local community organizations to provide food for families, including the Albion FFA. In this photo from last December, FFA member Riley Kelly reaches for a bag of potatoes from Brian Bentley. The FFA delivered 19,000 pounds of produce to Community Action.

Skowneski is married and has a 2-year-old son named Liam. She would like to see Liam follow in her footsteps and volunteer to help his community and those who need assistance.

“I’m definitely going to instill in him the things that my parents did when I was a child,” she said. “‘Do unto others’ is my biggest one. It’s important that our youth know we have to help each other. We have to teach our youth to help people or else where are we going to be?”

Skowneski says that needs are very high in Orleans County for many assistance programs and that she is very happy to be a part of Community Action. Next year the organization will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“There’s a lot of different things I do to help support Community Action because they are a wonderful employer,” she said. “They stand behind me and support me in my endeavors. I will be here as long as they want to keep me.”

She added, “I appreciate the recognition, but I don’t want people to forget that it’s not just me doing this. There’s a huge team behind me helping me to do this.”

Skowneski will accept the Community Service Award on Sept. 20 at an awards banquet at Tillman’s Historic Village Inn in Childs.