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Rising to the COVID-19 Challenge: Responses from NYS Community Action Agencies

Click here to view the report.

As this report will demonstrate, CAAs continued to operate during the worst of the pandemic, stepped up, never faltered, and met the needs of their communities with compassion, skill, and grace. This intense and seemingly never-ending work took its toll on direct service workers who could see the stress and unease in their customers’ faces, which often mirrored their own anxieties. Managers and Directors had to navigate ever-changing and contradictory state and federal guidelines and rules.

But, with crisis comes opportunity, and CAAs took advantage. They streamlined customer intake processes to make it easier and less burdensome.They designed and developed new methods to continue to engage customers, such as through remote classrooms and support groups, even offering unique prescription and grocery pick-up services. They augmented existing partnerships and developed new coalitions to deliver food, conduct outreach, and provide crucial support to families with low-income disproportionately affected by the pandemic. They made changes to their facilities and offices to ensure the safety of staff and customers. Many of these changes will continue into our “new normal.” But one thing will always remain: CAAs will search for these in-person connections with their customers and partners to build trusting and impactful relationships.

We at NYSCAA are incredibly proud of our network’s willingness to embrace change in the face of adversity and admire the nimble dance agencies made to ensure the operational policies and procedures and the service delivery changes implemented not only protected their employees and customers but also served clients well during the challenging weeks and months, lasting into years. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to highlight all of NY CAAs in this report. Community Action Agencies have shined during the pandemic, and we want to ensure those efforts are recognized in this report.


Click here to view the report.



NYSCAA & NYSWDA's Annual Conference: Purpose and Passion in Action

Join us to commemorate 60 years of Community Action during our 2024 Annual Conference: Purpose and Passion in Action, taking place September 17th – 20th in Lake Placid, New York!

About the Event

The annual conference brings together representatives from Community Action and Weatherization Agencies. Conference participants will convene to learn, be inspired, inspire others, and discuss strategies for meeting new challenges. Join us to gain insights from a wide variety of speakers – from Community Action and Weatherization staff, academicians, policymakers, practitioners, and more!


Coming soon!

Thank You to Our Conference Sponsors!

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Shine the Light Campaign

As part of Community Action Month, NYSCAA created the "Shine the Light" campaign, to highlight the fantastic CAA staff from all over New York and their stories about the work they do in Community Action! We are honored to be able to share these amazing stories with you!

Congratulations to our 2023 Shine the Light Campaign winners:

Carol Burnett, Community Action of Greene County, Inc.

Hear from Carol:

I got my start at Community Action of Greene County, Inc. when I lost my job and was seeking employment.  I was job seeking and saw a position open for a Weatherization Intake Worker in the local paper and applied for it, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I currently work in the Weatherization Department as a Program Assistant processing applications for low-income individuals that own or rent their homes so that they can receive a free energy audit. What I enjoy about working in this position is hearing the clients say thank you for helping me lower my energy bill, or my house is so much warmer now.

I also work as an Administrative Assistant for the agency. I see disadvantaged individuals and families who feel that life has dealt them a bad hand come into the office. They feel worthless and abandoned by the world and, at times, their families. They leave our office with resources to achieve economic security and gain a more stable life for themselves and their family. What I find most gratifying about this position is the success stories we receive through a phone call, letter or walk-in from those individuals or families we have helped.  I think what sets us apart from other agencies is that we offer a diverse range of programs that empower disadvantaged individuals and families. We can serve Columbia County through some of our programs. We have a dedicated staff who work as a team to advocate for the clients we serve. We also maintain partnerships with other organizations offering referrals to agencies that can help our clients. #CommunityActionWorks #WeR1000Strong

Chautauqua Child Care Council, Chautauqua Opportunities, Inc.

Christina C Maddox: I want to make a positive difference in a constantly changing world. I want to be the hand held out to those in need and who puts a smile on their faces.

Lisa Feldt: I love that COI has so many different programs that can help people. Everyone at COI is caring, helpful, and willing to take on whatever is needed.

Leslie Anderson: I love working for COI as a community action agency so I can make a difference in the lives of families and caregivers. As a new employee, I already feel I have had opportunities to make a difference. The way the staff works together to make a difference reflects the mission in a real way. I look forward to many other opportunities to help others in the future.

Diane Guzman: I love working for COI for the CUSTOMERS!! The satisfaction of knowing I did what I could to help.

Chris Wigren: Back in the 1980s, even though I graduated from a business college, I knew I wanted to be part of a human services organization that makes a difference in other people's lives. Working in community action is not "me-centered."  It is "we-centered" meaning a team of fellow staff we work with to help us provide services for those in the community who need us.   Working in community action also means no two days are ever alike. There is always an interesting challenge around the corner and something to strive for.

Jamie Hojnoski, Pro Action of Steuben and Yates, Inc.

Hear from Jamie:

I left the private restaurant industry worn out and disheartened in March 2016. Little did I know that my life would be forever changed! It puts a huge smile on my face to know that I make a difference in this world every day.
I have worked in factories. I have been in the military. I have even worked for the “Big Cheese” himself, Mickey Mouse. Fortunately, I got a chance to apply my skills and knowledge at a place called Pro Action. I soon learned that Pro Action offered retirement, sick pay, PTO, eye coverage, dental coverage, medical insurance, and life insurance. I have supervisors who truly care about my well-being. Recently, my father passed away. I was asked, “What can we do to help?” “I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am here to listen.” “Take whatever time you need.” I was blown away by this kindness. I used to be told what to report and how to report it. My Pro Action supervisors ask me. Yes, I said me. “Well, we are reporting this. Does this make sense for your program, or should we be reporting something else?” WOW, I have input.
And by the way, I am not just serving food to old folks. I make a difference in my community every day. Taking food across a yard filled with two feet of snow to a customer who needed it was not a job requirement. It was the right thin. The half-crying smile that greeted me at the doorway from the customer warmed my heart and made me very proud to work for a place called Pro do. The half-crying smile that greeted me at the doorway from the customer warmed my heart and made me very proud to work for a place called Pro Action.

Zac LaPoint, LEAP (Washington County)

Hear from Zac:

In 1993, I graduated from the Dix Avenue Head Start in Hudson Falls, NY. My parents were both under-educated and though they have remained in poverty, the tools that Head Start and the accompanying services available through LEAP [then the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council] helped them to create the stability that has lasted and supported their efforts to make sure my younger sister and I succeeded in life. Thirty years later, I am getting ready to celebrate my first anniversary with the agency as the Outreach & Development Coordinator building new and strong relationships, operating procedures, and supporting a culture of humanity, integrity, and compassion. I love traveling all over this rural county sharing information and resources with the families who most need our support and guidance. Meeting people where they are within their communities gives me a unique view of the world of poverty and overall community building. Having grown up in that work of tyranny and survival, I am uniquely able to connect with and understand the barriers my neighbors face that others may not even know exist.

I love seeing friendly and familiar faces across the region when I am out and about. By building trust and friendships with community members, I am able to open the door to all the LEAP can do for their families and neighbors. The photo attached is me with Debbie Holcomb, my forever-ago teacher, who still shows up daily for our kids at our 2022 Staff Picnic.

Ginger Phinney, Adirondack Community Action Programs, Inc.

Hear from Ginger:

As a single mom who had just been laid off and had no direction-I, was sent by the Department of Labor to the Employment and Training Department at OneWorkSource (ACAP) to build a resume and apply to 5 jobs by the next meeting. I was greeted by a lovely woman who could tell I was overwhelmed but was able to help get me going on the requirements of the Department of Labor. As we were building my resume, we chatted a lot about life. She left me working on the computer but came back over and offered me an interview the next day for a greeter position at OneWorkSource. I accepted. I went in the next day, then again, a few days later, for a 2nd interview with the department director, and was offered the position. I have been with the agency for over 22 years, and my job title has changed. (I now coordinate three different programs.)  I am so thankful that somebody saw something in me all those years ago and gave me a chance. I like to say that Community Action found me. It picked me up, dusted me off, and gave me a purpose. It has propelled me to do things I never thought I could. It gave me a foundation to raise my children, to teach them how important it is to volunteer and be part of a bigger something. To be a face in the community that people can reach out to if they are in need. It has truly been a gift to find my passion and my career in the same space.

Thank you to all of the CAA staff who took the time to submit your story!

Click here to read all of the 2023 Shine the Light submissions!
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