Author Archives: DCole

Your Invitation to Attend a Child Care Discussion

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Jefferson-Lewis Childcare Project invites you to participate in a discussion about child care in our community. What are we doing for parents and children? What is the availability and how are the options for families? What could we improve? Are there challenges?

We are pleased to welcome Addie Jenne and Mark Walczyk to the table, to share thoughts and ideas about this important issue. Child care is not only an education concern: it’s a workforce support. With economic growth comes the need to assess and improve our supply of high quality programs, so parents can get to work and children can be ready for success in school.

The discussion will be held on Tuesday, October 16 from 6:30-7:30 pm in the Starbuck Elementary School Cafeteria at 430 East Hoard Street in Watertown.  Click here to download the flyer.

We welcome questions before the event. Please send them to Cathy Brodeur at by October 15. There will be some opportunity in this session for questions and comments “from the floor” about your child care views and experience.

Please RSVP to by October 15, so we can prepare. This is a wonderful opportunity to do some planning for the future of child care in our community with our next NY Assembly Representative, and to continue the effort toward great outcomes for children.

Board Member Election Underway

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Community Action Planning Council is governed by a Board of Directors, comprised of representation in each of three sectors: individuals living in poverty, elected public officials or their designees, and members of the private sector.

Low-income representatives are especially important in developing strategies that address the causes and conditions of poverty in our community. Elected for five-year terms, these representatives look out for the best interest of low-income individuals in Jefferson County.

An election is underway to fill a vacant five-year term, representing the low-income sector.  The general public is invited to participate in the democratic process.  Eligible voters must be at least 18 years of age, reside in Jefferson County and be a member of a low-income household.  Eligible voters are invited to read the biographies below and then stop into Community Action Planning Council, located at 518 Davidson Street to cast their vote.  Ballots are available October 1 – 5, October 9 – 12 and October 15, 8 AM to 4 PM daily.

The following two candidates are vying for a single vacant seat on the board of directors of Community Action:

Juliane Aubertine graduated from Getting Ahead in August 2018. She credits the Getting Ahead program with helping her and her peers to build self-confidence and inspiring more active involvement in the community. Juliane has experience volunteering at the library in genealogy, gathering data for the census in Lewis County, and participating in the work study program in the Student Activities Office at JCC. A single parent who lives in Watertown, Juliane has a wealth of life experience, all of which has helped her to gain an “understanding for all sorts of people.” She describes herself as well-spoken, open-minded and artistic. When asked why she wants to serve on the board, Juliane said, “I have taken steps to improve my life and the lives of those around me – including mental health, addiction and poverty – and will continue to do so.”


John Bonventre graduated from Getting Ahead in March 2018.  He describes the Getting Ahead experience as “a firecracker which when lit, ignites,” crediting the program with giving him a new perspective on poverty and helping him to recognize that change begins from the inside.  A former pastor and chef, John has experience volunteering at Community Action, lending a hand during special events, such as Stuff the Bus.  He regularly speaks publicly on behalf of Getting Ahead and served as the Chair of the Transportation Work Group as part of Watertown’s Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI).  A certified Getting Ahead Facilitator, John lives in Watertown with his wife.  When asked why he wants to serve on the board, John said, “I want to share and help my community grow.”



For questions or comments about the election process, please contact Lisann Babcock at 315.782.4900, ext. 252.


ERN: An Innovative Partnership Comes to Jefferson County

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Community Action Planning Council continues its mission to advance community prosperity by introducing the Employer Resource Network (ERN) to Jefferson County.  The ERN is designed to increase employee retention by using a Success Coach as a means of support to build stronger and longer lasting teams.

Check out the Q&A section below to learn more about the Jefferson County ERN.

Q: What exactly is an ERN?
A: An ERN is a collaborative effort of employers and community-based organizations that share resources and expenses associated with building the skills and capacities of workers.   Participating organizations form an ERN Advisory Council, meeting monthly to exchange ideas and best practices, review outcome data, and explore strategies for marketing and member recruitment.  Based on a national model, the local ERN is being established under the leadership of Jefferson County Department of Employment and Training in consultation with Schenectady Works, a non-profit organization serving the Capital Region, with funding support from the Watertown Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI). 

Q:  How does an ERN work?
A: The ERN model is simple yet effective.  Businesses are invited to purchase “shares” of a Success Coach who comes to their facilities on a regular basis to assist employees in working through a multitude of issues and finding resources to address their needs.  The primary role of the Success Coach is to facilitate solutions that ensure a high level of productivity in the workplace.  Employers who utilize the services of a Success Coach report dramatic increases in retention, equating to significant savings in recruitment and training costs. 

Q:  How do I know if an ERN is right for my business / organization?
A:  If your employees are chronically late to work or absent due to non-work related issues, come to you with personal, non-work related problems, or quit due to difficulties with transportation, child care or family issues … then participation in an ERN will benefit your business.

Q:  What does a Success Coach do?
A:  A Success Coach is a confidential resource, providing on-site, face-to-face assistance to staff who are in crisis and/or under-resourced.  The Success Coach serves as a conduit to social services, community programs and local agencies and provides employees with a mix of rapid problem resolution and coaching.  Some of the challenges the Success Coach can help an employee work through include: financial / debt, transportation, family issues, workplace conflict, substance abuse and attendance. 

Q:  How does an ERN reduce turnover and save money?
A:  An ERN saves time for HR and supervisory staff and helps prevent otherwise valued employees from quitting or being terminated due to personal problems. ERN companies report increased retention and greater ability to compete for high-quality employees.  A monthly statistical report allows you to track how ERN membership pays for itself many times over.

Q:  How can I find out more about being part of the Jefferson County ERN?
A:  Contact Cathy Brodeur at Community Action Planning Council, or 315.782.4900, extension 240.      

Summer Meals for Kids

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When school is out, children lose access to free and reduced meal programs, putting a strain on the family grocery bill.  That’s where the Summer Food Service Program comes in!  Beginning June 25 through August 17, children have access to free, nutritious meals at 31 sites in Jefferson County.  Free meals are available to all children 18 years old and under (up to age 21 if disabled).  Click on the links below for meal sites in your community.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), administers the Summer Food Service Program at the federal level, while the New York State Education Department (NYSED) administers the program at the state level.  Locally, the program is operated by Community Action Planning Council and Watertown City School District.  As a program sponsor, Community Action Planning Council is coordinating meal preparation and delivery to 27 sites; the remaining four sites are operated by Watertown City School District.

In an effort to build greater awareness of the program, Community Action Planning Council and Flower Memorial Library are hosting a Summer Food Service Program Celebration on July 11, 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Flower Memorial Library, located at 229 Washington Street in Watertown.  It is a great opportunity to learn more about the Summer Food Service Program and visit the Watertown Farm & Craft Market.  Families, community leaders, elected officials and the media are welcome to attend.  Local organizations will be on hand to share information and to host activities and games for children.  Participating agencies include Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, WPBS-TV, Jefferson County Public Health, the North Country Prenatal Perinatal Council, and many others.  The centerpiece of the day’s activities is, of course, a nutritious lunch for children, served between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM.

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, call 315.782.4900, extension 255.

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