Champions for Change: Ready to Change the Way We Think

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“You’re going to have fun changing the way people think,” said Phil DeVol to an audience of 53 professionals representing organizations across the tri-county region.  Co-author of “Bridges out of Poverty” and author of “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-By World,” Phil visited the North Country during a recent comprehensive, three-day conference sponsored by Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) and Community Action.  The training provided individuals identified as “Champions for Change” with the tools and strategies to facilitate Bridges out of Poverty workshops and encourage organizations and communities to utilize the Bridges concepts as part of a more consolidated, inclusive approach to addressing poverty.

Bridges out of Poverty is not a program but rather a common set of constructs for understanding and addressing poverty.   The work encourages us to broaden our definition of poverty to “the extent to which an individual does without resources,” and to think of financial as only one of a number of resources necessary for high quality of life.  Bridges inspires us to recognize individuals living in poverty as problem-solvers and to engage them in the important work of planning, implementing and evaluating programs.  Communities that embrace Bridges concepts take on a collective responsibility for ensuring that everyone has access to opportunities that build resources and that people from all sectors and all economic classes are working in tandem toward a sustainable community … where everyone can live well.

There are now more than 50 individuals in the tri-county area certified to facilitate Bridges out of Poverty workshops. These “Champions for Change” represent a variety of sectors, including human services, healthcare, K-12, post-secondary, mental/behavioral health, early childhood, independent living and faith-based organizations.  As certified trainers, they can offer Bridges workshops tailored to the audience, ranging from an hour to two full days in length. 

Local “Champions for Change” are organizing to form a learning collaborative to support one another as they strengthen their training skills, to encourage the sharing of best practices and to capture data relating to organizational changes inspired by Bridges concepts. 

The Bridges out of Poverty work is made available to individuals living in poverty via “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-By World,” a 16-week workshop series designed to inspire new thinking and the pursuit of a future story. Getting Ahead has a proven track record – nationally and locally – helping individuals to recognize their true potential, find their voice and get involved in the community.  Click here to learn more about Getting Ahead.

For more information about Bridges out of Poverty or Getting Ahead, please contact Dawn Cole at or 315.782.4900 x 250Click here for the list of “Champions for Change.”

Head Start Offers Alternative Learning Schedule

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Community Action’s Head Start Combination Option classroom in Carthage operates three days per week, with each enrolled child receiving a home visit from a teacher/family service worker once per month. The child’s teacher also serves the role of family worker for the parent, offering resources, education, referrals and goal planning assistance for the parent.  The “combination option,” a combination of classroom time and home visits, makes for a great connection between home and school, and serves the entire family.
Recently one of the combination option teachers worked closely with a mom who found herself a single parent for the first time. The mom was not only unsure of how to make things work financially, but was also struggling to get her child to school consistently.  Mom’s teacher/family worker visited the home for over two hours and they problem-solved together.  The teacher shared the phone numbers of numerous resources and support Mom could obtain in the community, including Community Action’s Family Center, the Department of Social Services, and WIC services.

In addition to the typical monthly home visit, the family worker touched base with the mom by phone on a weekly basis. During their last phone conversation, mom said she has made all the necessary phone calls and this month will not be nearly as hard of a financial struggle as last month. At the end of the conversation she told the staff: “I am not looking back, I can do it!”

The staff at Carthage consider this a real success story. The center serves qualifying 3 and 4 year old children and their families. Many 3 year old children return to the center when they are 4, attending a five-day-a-week classroom. 

For more information about Head Start in Jefferson County, contact us or call 315.782.4900, x 236.

It Takes Energy to Save Energy

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What is energy? Energy, by definition, is the ability to do work. We use so much energy that we don’t even think about where and when it’s being used. One place you may not think of energy being used is in your home. When you think about your electric bill, it might give you an eye opener to how much energy your home is using.

In New York State, millions of people are beginning to see an increase in energy costs for their homes. Companies that supply electricity and gas to homes are planning to increase the cost of electricity by 3% every year. Personal residences are not the only places to see a higher bill; some stores have already seen an increase in insulation costs over the last 10 years from 20% to 30%.  Unfortunately an increase in your bill doesn’t come with an increase in your monthly budget allowance. So what can you do as a homeowner?

A great way to save energy is to use energy. If you spend a little and follow a few tips, you can save a lot. Insulation is great all year round. It keeps the cold out in the winter and the heat out in the summer. A roll of plastic at your local store costs about $15-$20 a roll. Painter’s tape or staples may cost $10. Use them to seal the windows to add an extra barrier against the cold. Your savings will be returned to you in less than one season alone.

You can also take an old towel, roll it up and place it under the door. It’s free and just takes some energy. Even though insulation costs have gone up, you will still see the biggest return on your investment if you add a few extra inches. You can even cut costs by renting a machine instead of hiring a contractor.  If you have a light on in the other room, turn it off. Just think that every second you have a light on, it’s burning your money. If you have dirty dishes, fill up your sink and wash them by hand instead of putting them in the dish washer.

There are some factors we cannot control, but we can still lower our energy costs by using our own personal energy. Think of your house like a piggy bank you put money in. Every day you save a few cents and at the end of the month, those cents turn into dollars. Just remember, it’s cheaper to use your own energy than to buy it.  
Not sure where to start in your energy-saving process? The guys at Community Action Planning Council’s Weatherization Department are there to answer your questions and give tips and suggestions. If you are a Jefferson County resident and need more than a few tips, there are applications available for assistance through the Weatherization Department.

Please contact us for more information or call 315.788.4388.

CACFP: More than Nutrition Education

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The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) brings healthy meals to tables across the country for children in child care centers, homes and afterschool programs. Community Action is a CACFP sponsor serving 90 providers and nearly 1,100 children in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties.

In addition to receiving reimbursement for serving healthy meals, providers receive nutrition training. One of the ways we’re building relationships with our providers and encouraging healthy eating habits is by offering in-home activities to CACFP participants. 
 Activities include preparing a wholesome snack that gets children involved. Lindsay Tiller, a licensed child care provider, has participated in several activities. Lindsay says “The CACFP in-home activities are terrific ways to incorporate nutrition education with young children, helping children learn healthy eating habits in a fun way”.


Mary Sheldon, a family registered child care provider, requests specific activities for her themed educational weeks, including “Nutrition Week” and “Snowman Week”. Mary appreciates CACFP staff stating, “Now when she comes, the kids instantly get excited and ask what we are going to make.”


Click here to learn more about CACFP at Community Action.

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.

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

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.