Volunteer Tax Preparers Help Local Residents Collect More Than $1 Million in Refunds

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Throughout tax season, Community Action Planning Council offered free income tax preparation to low to moderate income households.  Basic tax returns were prepared by a dedicated group of well trained, IRS-certified volunteers.  In total, volunteers prepared 907 federal and 884 state tax returns, helping local residents collect $1,006,580 in refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits.  The service was offered at locations throughout Jefferson County, including Community Action Planning Council, Clayton Paynter Center, Carthage American Legion, and Adams Village Municipal Building.

On the morning of May 23, Community Action staff, board members, representatives from the IRS, and local dignitaries gathered at Ramada Inn for a special celebration of the good work of tax preparation volunteers.   The volunteers were presented with certificates of appreciation from the Internal Revenue Service, Representative Elise Stefanik, Senator Patty Ritchie, Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush, and Assemblywoman Addie Russell.

During the program, Watertown City Mayor Joseph Butler, Jr. thanked the volunteers for their service to the community.  Several volunteers expressed great satisfaction in helping those who can least afford to pay for tax preparation services.  It was noted that the combined experience of tax preparation volunteers totals 104 years.

IMG_8143Pictured (back row, from left): Peter Benson, Barbara Greene, John Irwin, Gisele Young, and Bob Ashodian. (Front row): Yvonne Barr, Mike Geiss and Henry Watkins.

Community Needs Assessment Data: Now Available

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Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, Inc. recently conducted an agency-wide comprehensive assessment of community needs.  The assessment document will serve as a foundation for the agency’s strategic planning process, slated to begin in the fall.

The community needs assessment is comprised of data from a variety of sources, such as focus groups and surveys of agency constituencies, as well statistical data from sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, and NYS Department of Education.   A work group, comprised of agency staff and board members, analyzed the data and developed a list of community needs categorized by topic:  Living Wage Jobs, Transportation, Housing, Child Care, Adult Education, Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse, Youth / Family Activities, and Public Relations.  The assessment document, including the work group’s findings, was reviewed by the agency’s Board of Directors in March and updated the following month to include the results of a recent customer satisfaction survey.  The agency-wide assessment is complemented by program-specific assessment documents compiled by Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project and Head Start.

Community members are welcome to review the assessment materials:

Community Action Planning Council Community Needs Assessment 2015
Head Start Community Assessment 2015
Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project Child Care Report 2015

For more information about the community needs assessment process, contact Dawn Cole at 315.782.4900, extension 250.

Child Care Survey for Parents in Jefferson and Lewis Counties

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Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project, in collaboration with Child Care Resource & Referrals state wide, is conducting a parent/family survey about child care. The data from this survey will give us the tools to tell the story of parent experiences, and to encourage investment in a quality child care system as an essential element of the state and local economic development plan. Please follow the link below and take a few minutes to fill out the survey. Your voice is needed.

Thank you for your help, and please forward to any parents you know in Jefferson and Lewis Counties.


Community Action Surveys Customers

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Community Action Planning Council recently conducted a customer satisfaction survey, the results of which were aggregated and reviewed by the agency’s Board of Directors.  A total of 437 households, representative of all program areas, completed the survey, summarized as follows.

Of those surveyed, 36% reported that this was their first visit to the agency in the past 12 months.  Nearly 30% have visited the agency five or more times.  More than half of respondents were referred to the agency by a friend of family member.  The most commonly accessed services were Food Pantry, Head Start, and Income Tax Preparation.

One-third of respondents indicated that they were asked to participate in the community needs survey, 22% have been asked to participate in volunteer activities and 21% have been asked to participate in the Head Start self-assessment.  This speaks to a high level of engagement of the customer base.

When asked to identify suggestions for improving services, a large number of respondents made positive comments regarding the quality of staff and services.  Suggestions for improvement varied widely, including increased bussing options for Head Start, issues specific to homes that have received or are awaiting weatherization services, and providing more services.

Survey responses suggest some uncertainty as to the agency’s scope of services with a small number of respondents confusing the agency with another community organization or indicating that they did not know what Community Action does.

Overall, the satisfaction indicators are positive, with 99.8% of respondents indicating that they were treated courteously and 98.3% indicating that their privacy was respected.  98% of respondents indicated that their needs had been met.  Additionally, the majority of respondents (85%) believe that the agency is helping to improve the conditions in which low-income individuals live.

For more information about the customer satisfaction survey, please contact Dawn Cole at 315.782.4900, extension 250.

Child Care Provider Appreciation Day: May 6, 2016

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Registered and Licensed child care providers, in Centers and in home-based programs, have a huge impact on families and communities. These are people who complete annual training, follow New York State regulations, allow regular unannounced inspections, and work with parents to meet the needs of children. They support learning and development, preparing children for future success and allowing friendship, joy, and security every day. Child care providers are nurses, custodians and comedians.  They are teachers, providing individualized and purposeful lessons each day.  They connect families to needed resources and build a child’s very first community.  They are excellent listeners, observers and problem solvers.  Their administrative tasks are vast and time consuming, often requiring long hours.  They are playwrights, actors and directors.  They are promoters of creativity and independence.  Most of all, they are providers of secure, stable and loving environments for over 11 million children in the United States. The second Sunday in May has long been recognized as the day to honor mothers and their commitment to children.  Nationally, the Friday  before Mother’s day, May 6th, is Provider Appreciation Day, a special day to recognize child care providers, teachers, school-age program staff, child care center directors and staff, and all those who work with children and are responsible for their education and care.

 “Every day, licensed and registered child care providers care for hundreds of children under the age of 5 in Jefferson and Lewis Counties,” says Cathy Brodeur, Director of Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project. “The children, parents and employers of Jefferson and Lewis Counties depend on our child care providers. May 6th is the day to recognize the hard work and dedication of these providers and to acknowledge their contributions to high-quality early care and learning.”

“Child care providers are central to a quality child care system and Provider Appreciation Day is the time to tell providers everywhere we recognize and value their important work,” said Lynette M. Fraga, Ph.D., Executive Director of Child Care Aware® of America, the host organization of Provider Appreciation Day.

For more information about Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project, contact Cathy Brodeur at 315.782.4900, ext. 240.


Celebrating Community Action Month

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Signing_of_the_EOA (2)On August 20, 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act which created a variety of programs, including Community Action Agencies, as part of his War on Poverty. Two years later, Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County was established to wage the local war on poverty. The core concepts of Community Action remain the same today: promoting self-sufficiency for those of limited income, ensuring that all residents are able to live in dignity; implementing innovative and cost-effective programs to improve the lives and living conditions of the impoverished; providing support and instruction for everyone in need of assistance; and being a major voice of reason in establishing welfare system reforms.

May is officially designated Community Action month, and the local Community Action Agency is taking advantage of this opportunity to honor and celebrate the impact Community Action has on the lives of families throughout Jefferson County and the entire country. Community Action Planning Council remains committed to empowering the low-income population to achieve economic security by providing a broad range of services that meet the unique needs of each family and the community.

Throughout the month, a number of events are scheduled to take place to build greater awareness of Community Action services. On May 3, the Jefferson County Board of Legislators will offer a proclamation in recognition of Community Action month. That same evening, Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project, a program of Community Action Planning Council, will host a Child Care Provider Appreciation Ice Cream Social. The festivities continue on May 21 when Community Action staff, volunteers and community members march in the Armed Forces Day Parade. On May 23, the agency will host a brunch to recognize the dedicated tax preparation volunteers for their outstanding efforts. The month-long celebration concludes on May 26 with Grow with Community Action, a special open house event for low-income families, highlighting healthy habits, such as growing and preparing vegetables.

Last year, Community Action Planning Council helped better the lives of 9,437 individuals by providing essential services and life-changing opportunities, including early childhood education, family development, emergency food assistance, vocational education, job readiness supports, child care referrals, provider training, weatherization services, tax preparation, and more.

Despite budget cuts, shrinking resources, and increased demand for services during these challenging economic times, Community Action Planning Council continues to provide vital support to a broad cross-section of the local population, including families, children, students, senior citizens, military, veterans, single-parents, and anyone seeking an opportunity to achieve economic security. For more information about Community Action programs or special events scheduled throughout the month, please contact Dawn Cole at 315.782.4900, extension 250.