Getting Ahead: When Getting By is No Longer Enough

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Living in poverty is no easy trick.  One must be masterful at juggling multiple challenges with limited resources.  Juggling requires careful concentration; it requires living in the moment, leaving little room to think about or plan for the future.  When we live in poverty, getting by takes every ounce of energy.

“Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World,” an innovative workshop series, built from the “Bridges out of Poverty” framework, can help by providing those living in poverty with a safe environment in which to step outside of the problems of everyday life … and look to the future.  Over the course of 16 weeks, groups of 12 to 14 participants—referred to as investigators—come together, along with one to two facilitators, to investigate poverty in their own lives and in their communities.  Getting Ahead provides the tools to encourage investigators to write their own future story, and come to grips with the environmental, circumstantial, and psychological challenges they face, along with the resources they have – or lack.

Pictured: Phil Devol, author of “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin-By World” met with Getting Ahead graduates and supporters during a visit to the North Country (April 11, 2018).

Based on a national model, Getting Ahead was launched in the North Country in 2017 with overwhelming support from the community, most notably the Race Against Poverty, hosted by Jefferson Leadership Institute Class of 2017. 

To date, two groups totaling 23 individuals have graduated from Getting Ahead.  These graduates come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, each one having battled their way through adversity to come to where they are today.  Individuals from both graduating classes have found themselves successful in continuing their journey to staying ahead.  Goals obtained vary to fit each individual’s needs. Some of the graduates have found full-time jobs with benefits and can now comfortably care for their families.  Some are pursuing educational accomplishments by completing their high school equivalency, enrolling at Jefferson Community College, and even choosing a new career path by attending tractor trailer school.  Others have simply learned to come out of their shell to be more involved in the community, with a few stepping up to actually become Getting Ahead Facilitators themselves.  Whether it’s bettering themselves financially through new career pursuits, taking back control of their lives by finding courage to leave an abusive relationship,  becoming an asset to the community by volunteering at different organizations, or teaching others to save money through couponing and simply spreading the word of Getting Ahead, we can without a doubt say this program has produced successful graduates. 

Because the Getting Ahead process continues well beyond participants’ graduation, it needs to be championed by the entire community in order to be truly successful.  Employers must be aware and give pause when they see “Getting Ahead graduate” on an applicant’s resume.  Employers would do well to learn about Bridges out of Poverty constructs in order to better understand and maximize the potential of their under-resourced staff.  In fact, nationwide, several employers have sponsored the cost of Getting Ahead workshops or have otherwise promoted Getting Ahead, because they recognize the investment it brings to their own business as well as their entire community. The possibilities for employers, business people, and other community leaders to get involved are endless – from sponsoring the workshops to raising awareness about the series in the community to assisting with job coaching, mentoring, or pairing graduates with employment opportunities. 

Over the next year, ten additional Getting Ahead workshops will be offered in the community, funded in part by Watertown’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI).  Click here for the spring / summer schedule.  Workshops are offered in partnership with Community Action Planning Council, Watertown Urban Mission and the Volunteer Transportation Center. 

For more information or to find out how you can help others “get ahead,” call 315.782.4900, extension 250.

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Early Childhood Professionals Complete Training Course

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Eleven early childhood professionals recently completed a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential preparatory course offered by Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project at Community Action Planning Council. This group attended weekly classes from September to April. 

The CDA training program offers an opportunity for individuals working with young children to expand their knowledge, improve their practices, and grow as professionals. Training topics include child growth and development, program management, and professionalism. In order to earn the CDA credential, candidates must also demonstrate competency through preparation of a professional portfolio and observation of their work with young children.

Community Action Planning Council would like to congratulate these dedicated individuals and wish them success as they continue their work in the early childhood field.
Back row (from left): Larissa Blake, Shaina Typhair, Shantel Potter, Carly Catanzaro, Destiney Bales, Christine Smith, Truly Robinson Front row (from left): Mariko Walker, Debbie Scholl, Michele Currier, Geralynn Sharp

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Recognizing Child Care Providers in Preparation for Appreciation Day on May 11!

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Child care providers do more than watch our children.  They provide them with opportunities that support their development, create a love of learning, encourage creativity, and guide their ever growing curiosity.  

May 11 is a day to recognize your child care provider for all the invaluable work they do for young children.  Child Care Provider Appreciation Day is recognized nationally and we want to make sure our Jefferson and Lewis County providers are also being recognized for their hard work and dedication to providing quality care for our community’s youngest.

Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project is hoping to collect 100 “Thank You’s” from families who appreciate all that their child care provider has done for their child and family.  This thank you can be in the form of a picture, video and/or a personalized statement.  All thank you’s will be used during our Provider Appreciation event to let child care providers know they are valued by their families and community.  Click here to post your comments or share a picture / video.  

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Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act

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Community Action Planning Council and the Jefferson County Planning Department are hosting an Annual Fair Housing Roundtable in recognition of Fair Housing Month on April 5, 2018, 9:00 to 11:00 AM at the Italian American Club located at 192 Bellew Avenue in Watertown.  This will be a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

The fresh topic for this year’s interactive roundtable discussion is “Fair Housing Scenarios – What Would You Do?” with Sally Santangelo, Executive Director of CNY Fair Housing.  Ms. Santangelo will provide an overview of the impact Fair Housing has in our community and will be distributing housing scenarios of questionable situations for interactive discussion in groups. Each collective discussion group will review these scenarios together and report on their findings at the end of the session.   Test your knowledge of the Fair Housing Law and learn more about what is covered under this 50 year old equality initiative.

Jefferson County serves as the lead county for the North Country HOME Consortium.  Community Action Planning Council serves as Jefferson County’s Fair Housing Office and is the information and referral agency for persons with questions or complaints about housing or housing practices.  Every year, as part of HUD requirements, Jefferson County and Community Action Planning Council host the Fair Housing Roundtable, highlighting various topics pertaining to Fair Housing law.

For more information on the Fair Housing Roundtable or to RSVP, please call Community Action Planning Council at 315.782.4900 ext. 257.

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National Child and Adult Care Food Program Week: March 11 – 17

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March 11-17 is National Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) week. This is a program that reimburses child care programs for serving healthy meals to children in care. Our child care homes sponsorship includes 90 providers across the Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence area, and serves nearly 1,100 children! Last year, the Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project team facilitated more than $600,000 dollars going back into the community through CACFP. The staff reviews menus, trains providers, and ensures compliance with about 400 site visits each year.  

Little Bear Daycare owner, Sue Condino of Watertown, states “The Child & Adult Care Food Program provides our day care with the ability and resources to serve the children in our care nutritious meals. These meals contribute to their healthy growth and development while providing sufficient variety to help them learn proper nutritional habits at an early age. We are grateful for all that this program does for us and feel it would not be possible to achieve these goals without the funding provided by this program.”

Please join us in honoring all CACFP providers for their invaluable work done on behalf of New York children.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Vickie Brownell, 315.782.4900, extension 289 or


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Head Start / Pre-K Newsletter – Now Online

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Interested in learning more about Community Action’s Head Start / Pre-K programs?  Looking for ideas for some fun family activities that stimulate creativity?  Ever thought about making your own bubbles?  Looking for recipes for healthy snacks that promote learning?  It’s all here in the Winter Edition of the Head Start / Pre-K Newsletter.  

For more information about Head Start or Pre-K, please call 315.782.4900, ext. 236.

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Head Start Recruitment Underway

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Community Action Planning Council’s Head Start program is currently seeking children who will be 3 or 4 by December 1, 2018, for the next school year.

Head Start is a federally funded pre-school program that provides services to families at no cost. Most families must meet income guidelines.  We offer an inclusive setting for children with special needs, hearing, vision and developmental screenings and family support services. Transportation is offered within center boundaries.

It’s not too soon to contact us to schedule a time to complete an application with one of our staff members. Call 315.782.4900, extension 236.

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Calling All Champions …

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… “Champions for Change” that is!

Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and Community Action Planning Council are pleased to announce two exciting training opportunities, made possible in part by Watertown Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI).

Bridges out of Poverty Trainer Certification
Professionals who have familiarity with Bridges out of Poverty, having attended a full-day “Bridges out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities” workshop, have an opportunity to become lifetime certified Bridges trainers.  Representatives from all sectors are encouraged to participate, including human services, health care, legal, law enforcement, faith-based, education, business and employment.

This is a three-day training conducted by national Bridges out of Poverty consultants on April 9, 10 and 11.  Participants must attend all three days in order to earn certification.  Seating is limited.  Click here for details and registration link.

Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-By World Facilitator Training
Getting Ahead brings the Bridges out of Poverty material to individuals living in poverty by way of a 16-week workshop series.  Professionals who have strong familiarity with Bridges out of Poverty and work for an organization interested in facilitating a Getting Ahead workshop in the future are encouraged to register for this one-day training on April 12.  Seating is extremely limited with priority given to Getting Ahead graduates.  Click here for details and registration link.

For questions, please contact Dawn Cole at Community Action Planning Council at or 315.782.4900, extension 250.

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Community Action Offers Free Tax Preparation

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It’s time to file state and federal income tax returns – a task that can be overwhelming and expensive!  If you’re living on a fixed income and need tax preparation assistance, we can help.

Community Action Planning Council is offering free income tax preparation to low and moderate income households.   Preparation services are available at two locations:

  • Community Action Planning Council – 518 Davidson Street Watertown
    Call 315.782.4900, extension 222 for an appointment

    Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, February 6 – April 12, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM
    Saturday appointments available; please call for more information.
  • American Legion – 415 West Street Carthage
    Call 315.493.1545 for an appointment.

    Wednesdays, February 7 – April 11, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM

IRS-certified volunteers provide basic income tax return preparation (Forms 1040, 1040-A, 1040-EZ).  Electronic filing and direct deposit are offered.  To qualify for free tax preparation services, household income must not exceed $56,000.  Service is not available to small businesses or military households.   Tax preparation is offered by appointment only.

Individuals seeking free tax preparation services should plan to bring income statements (W-2, unemployment forms, 1099), photo ID, social security cards for all persons in the household, bank routing numbers if filing electronically, form 1095-A if purchased health insurance through the NYS Marketplace, and a copy of last year’s tax return, as well as any other relevant documents.  Last year, Community Action assisted 515 households through the filing process, helping them to qualify for a more than $605,000 in refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC).

For more information or to make an appointment at the Watertown site, call 315.782.4900, ext. 222. For appointments at the Carthage site, please call 315.493.1545.

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Input Needed from Parents

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If you are a New York State resident who has a child aged 12 or under …

If your children are currently in child care, if you are looking for child care, or if you have used child care in the past … 

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!  Please take a few minutes to click on the link below and complete a parent survey.  The information we gather will help Child Care Resource & Referral agencies across New York State to improve services to families.

All survey participants who include contact information will be entered to win a $100.00 Visa Gift Card from the Child Care Resource & Referral Network! Community Action will also have 3 monthly drawings for $20 gift cards. 

Your input is very much appreciated and will provide valuable information about community needs.  Data will be reported by state, region, and Jefferson-Lewis community results, and reports will be available through our office to anyone who requests them.

If you don’t have children, please consider passing the survey link along to friends, grandparents, coworkers, and neighbors. 

Click here to take the survey.  Thank you!


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