Community Action recaps busy year, with push to help residents be self-sufficient, fight poverty
ALBION – The second annual in-service event for staff at Community Action of Orleans & Genesee took place Friday at Maison Albion.
The event began with welcoming remarks from Executive Director Renee Hungerford and board chair Barb Shine. She introduced Bonnie Malakie, director of Children and Youth Services; Jackie Dunham, director of Operations; Katrina Chaffee, director of Community Services and Reporting; and Carol Pietrzykowski, director of Finance and Administration.
Shine thanked Hungerford and staff for all they do, saying it has been a tough couple of years, with the agency working through the death of executive director Ed Fancher, hiring a new director and persevering through Covid restrictions and challenges.
“This is a new day perspective – a shift in direction,” Shine said. “And we can’t be more thrilled with the direction our agency is taking. We are excited where we are headed.”
Shine added she thinks they are going to see more people in need as they go on.
Hungerford recapped the agency’s achievements during the past year. Because of a new program initiated last year, Community Action is getting its hands around data, something that is very important when it comes to raising public awareness, addressing needs and finding funding, she said.
The agency served between 3,000 and 4,000 people last year. Hungerford shared the many services Community Action provides.
Weatherization provided services to 152 individuals; the cooling program served 78 homes; the handyman program served 48 low-income seniors; and 1,526 individuals received help from Emergency Services and Case Management in the form of Christmas gifts, clothing, food, prepared meals at the Eastern Orleans Community Center in Holley, rental and utility assistance, prescription payments and winter coats.
Hungerford added in the past they have focused largely on services, but going forward, they will work with the customer to find the root cause of the barrier, set goals, apply interventions, track progress and celebrate success.
“We are here to help people to become self-sufficient and to build resilient communities,” she said.
The Main Street Store aided 18 students, including five seniors from Albion High School, in the Credit Recovery Classroom. The agency worked with Job Development to teach new skills about working in retail and with customers. They work with Re-employability, a company that helps people learn new skills and continue to work after an injury.
The store will continue under new management, and the team has many fresh new ideas, Hungerford said.
In 2021, 113 individuals received 1,303 one-way trips for medical, nutritional and social appointments. Migrant and seasonal workers are transported to work daily, enabling them to retain employment.
Head Start has slots to provide comprehensive services to 189 income-eligible children age 3 and 4 in five different locations. From September 2021 through May 2022 146 were served, while Early Head Start served 37 toddlers.
The Early Head Start Child Care Partnership served 58 children and families with six child care partners in the community. Stacie Graton became the new ESCCP and Jessica Niles was hired as new infant/toddler specialist.
During 2021, ACT (Helping Youth ACT Responsibly) held 19 cycles of the Making Proud Choices curriculum, with a total of 506 students. Former ACT employee Marty Taber and Jennifer Benz both joined the ACT staff in September. ACT recently moved their offices to what had previously been CATS in the Main Street Store building.
Among celebrated accomplishments, the agency joined the Digital Literacy Initiative and achieved 58 of 58 standards score on the state standards review. Other achievements include the Main Street Store hosting the Farmer’s Market weekends, realigning health insurance offerings, hiring a new COO, reorganizing much of the agency’s structure, a new employee handbook and receiving a Community Service Award from the Batavia Business and Professional Women’s Club. A recent key milestone was receipt of a Certificate of Recognition from the Department of State.
In assessing community needs, Hungerford said they learned Orleans County has a poverty rate of 13.7%. Of those families with female heads of household and children present, 37% live in poverty.
Hungerford noted a decrease in population in both Orleans and Genesee counties and a slight decrease in poverty. However, there are still health disparities, especially in Orleans County.
A number of community needs were identified, such as fund development to enhance current programming or develop new programs; explore opportunities to assist customers with transportation needs; partner to develop a homeless shelter program in Orleans County; and enhance training opportunities for staff to increase their technology skills.
Looking ahead, Hungerford shared a number of areas in which Community Action is working to improve. Currently, they are working with Cornell Cooperative Extension and United Way on a possible FoodRx program, creating a healthcare access center at the Holley location, which will include telehealth and mobile health unit visits and will offer primary care, behavioral health and substance abuse services; and reinventing the Angels program.
The day’s presentations continued with compliance training by Melinda Daniels, NEAR (Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Adverse Childhood Effects, and Resilience) training by Hungerford; a presentation by Shine titled A Peacock in the Land of Penguins; and a special guest speaker Arel Moodie, a best-selling author who has spoken to over 750,000 people throughout 48 states and 5 countries. Arel Moodie presented “Get in the Bunker: Unlocking a Simple Way to Create a Successful Team Culture by Unifying all Stages of Your Employees.”
The program closed with agency awards and recognitions.