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

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.

Annual Conference

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

Join us to commemorate 60 years of Community Action during our 2024 Annual Conference: Purpose & 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!

This year's conference will be held at the historic Lake Placid Olympic & Conference Center! The conference center offers spectacular views and is equipped with state-of-the-art meeting amenities, including WiFi, projectors and projector screens, smart boards, and more. In the Olympic Center, you’ll see hallways adorned with plaques and banners toting the achievements of past Olympians. You’ll find the 1932 Jack Shea Arena, USA Practice Rink, James C. Sheffield Speed Skating Oval, The Lake Placid Olympic Museum, and the famous Herb Brooks Arena where the “Miracle On Ice” game was played.


Early Bird Registration Rates:

  • Finance & HR Pre-Conference (September 17, 2024): $90
  • Core Conference (September 18-20, 2024): $285
  • Full Conference (September 17-20, 2024) $345

Click here to register!

Please note that Early Bird rates are only available until July 15, 2024. Effective July 16, 2024, the rates will increase.

Refunds are not permitted after September 1, 2024. Registrants who find they cannot attend after September 1st may transfer their registration to another guest.

Hotel & Lodging

The Crown Plaza Hotel is now sold out. An additional block of rooms is available at the High Peaks Resort. Room rates booking information is available below.

High Peaks Resort:

  • Traditional King or Queen: $189/night
  • Reservations require a first night room deposit
  • To book a room, please call (800) 755-5598 and mention "NYSCAA Conference"

Individual cancellations must be made 7 days prior to arrival. Any cancellations made after 6PM, 7 days before the scheduled arrival date will result in a penalty of one night's room charge plus any package add-ons. Guests that do not check in by midnight on the day of arrival will will be responsible for the full amount of the reservation stay. Changes cannot be made to the length of stay within 7 days of arrival.


preliminary conference agenda is available.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Interested in extending your brand and marketing capabilities with a strong visual presence at NYSCAA and NYSWDA's annual conference? At our annual conference, you will be able to showcase your organization and what it offers while also building relationships with those who influence and/or make decisions within the New York Community Action and Weatherization networks. Take advantage of this great opportunity to tie your brand to a culture of innovation and excellence by becoming a sponsor or exhibitor!

Click here to learn more about the available sponsorship opportunities for our annual conference.

Thank You to Our Conference Sponsors!

Platinum Sponsor(s):

With more than 2,900 associates and 100,000 clients, Wipfli ranks among the top 20 accounting and consulting firms in the nation. Business today is more fluid than ever. Helping firms achieve their goals takes imagination, discipline and a process that delivers results today while anticipating tomorrow’s demands. That’s Wipfli. Learn more at wipfli.com.

Gold Sponsor(s):


Shine the Light

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 2024 Shine the Light Campaign winners:

Becky Bennett-Tears, Pro Action of Steuben and Yates, Inc.

Hear from Becky:

I started working with Pro Action of Steuben and Yates, Inc. in June 2015. I came from a human service background working with individuals with DD/ID for over 20 years. It was a smooth transition from that work into the Pro Action environment as both offer support and services to individuals. I currently work in the Yates Office for the Aging and absolutely love my job! Pro Action’s services and programs are beneficial and have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. My favorite part is that I feel working in a community action agency helps make a difference every single day. Some days make big differences, other days make small differences. Overall, you know the work you do is changing people’s lives for the better. Also, I feel that Pro Action is an ever-evolving agency that challenges itself to improve and enhance services. It is well-respected within the community and seen as a resource for a wide array of needs. I enjoy being part of an agency that is known for this. Pro Action has a set of values that I fully believe in and support: Hope & Resilience, Innovation, Excellence, & Accountability, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging. These values are embedded in all the work we do and all the interactions we have. I am proud to say I am part of the Pro Action family, and that we are helping people, changing lives!

Timothy Birdsall, Cortland County Community Action Program, Inc.

Hear from Timothy:

I came to the Cortland County Community Action Program, Inc. (CAPCO) looking for a job to support my two small children in 1987. I was hired as a crew worker in the Weatherization Department and over the last 37 years, I have been a Crew Foreman, Sr. Building Technician, Auditor, and holding BPI Certifications. My favorite part is seeing the elderly people wearing their coats during the audit because of how cold their home is but knowing that we make a difference after weatherization and seeing them comfortable and without coats when we are done.


Jane Folts, Connecting Communities in Action

Hear from Jane:

In 1988, I was a young stay at home mom of two children. Most of my friends were just getting out of college and starting careers; I found myself isolated and lonely. I had never heard of Head Start. Someone suggested I enroll my son into the home-based program. Our weekly visits became something we both looked forward to and the group activities with other parents gave me the connection I was longing for. Fast forward to 1992, I just graduated from a business college with a degree in accounting. I was perusing the want ads when a position caught my attention; Head Start was hiring a Financial Assistant. I applied and got the job. I was thrilled for the opportunity to give back to something that gave me so much. During my seven years at Head Start I became the Program Operations Manager for two of the Head Start sites. I oversaw the transportation, facilities, and daycare license compliance. My time there saw changes: Head Start separated from Community Action, my position was uncertain due to funding, and I was starting a new chapter in my life marrying my best friend. I left my position, but not my desire to help people.

In 2006, my baby was starting kindergarten, and it was time to go back to the workforce full-time. Again, perusing the employment section, I came across an ad for a position with Community Action, I applied but did not get that position. A few days later the HR person, who knew me from my time at Head Start, reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in interviewing for a Homeless Intervention Specialist. I was hired, and all I can say is it felt right; it felt like coming home. I guess the rest you can say is history, as I have been here 18 years. I am currently the Homeless Services Program Manager, and my favorite part of my position is supervising staff. The human service field takes a special dedication, and Community Action staff are an exceptional breed. Every day I am amazed at the challenges they face. Their dedication to helping people, working through countless barriers and their commitment to each other, makes me strive to be someone they can always count on to be there.

Julie Hinkle, Cortland County Community Action Program, Inc.

Hear from Julie:

My name is Julie Hinkle. I have worked for CAPCO Head Start and Early Head Start for a total of 32 years. I started with the Program as a Substitute Teacher. Over time I moved to a Teacher’s Assistant, and my role now is a Teacher in Early Head Start.

My involvement began because of my three children and my involvement as an active parent. My daughter was in the Home-based program at first, but then she was accepted into the center-based program. My oldest son followed the same path, but my youngest just entered into a center-based program. All of my children received much needed therapy, which was offered by the program, and this ability for program services proved beneficial when they entered the school environment. For myself I needed some encouragement for growth.

I remember having a parent-teacher conference with Verna Tinker. I told her I needed to start working, but I didn’t know what to do. Verna told me to apply for the Substitute Teacher’s position, but I told her I didn’t think I qualified for the position. Through encouragement Verna convinced me that the position was similar to what I was doing around the home. I did apply and obtained employment as a Sub. After a year or so later Sharon Johnson told me I should apply for the Teacher’s Assistant position, which I did, but instead I was offered a long-term sub position. The next time the Teacher’s Assistant position opened up, I applied and got the position.

Through the Teacher’s Assistant position, I was able to obtain my Preschool CDA and later as a Teacher for Early Head Start when the program came. I got my Infant/Toddler CDA. The more I worked for the Organization, the more I grew in self-esteem and parenting skills. I worked really hard at trying to build strong relationships with families and children in my classroom.

One of my favorite parts of my career with the Community Agency Program is working with the children and families and seeing them become successful and reaching goals that didn’t seem possible. I love that CAPCO, as a whole, works to improve parts of families lives that are broken by having and utilizing resources the program offers. The Organization is growing by adding and/or changing programs to meet the needs of the community. As employees, we are offered trainings to help us grow and succeed. I know I wouldn’t be where I am at without the encouragement of staff and trainings offered.

Chari Jones, Schenectady Community Action Program

Hear from Chari:

I got my start in Community Action by accident, literally. I was working as a Residence Counselor with adults living with chronic mental illness when I was injured on the job. Newly graduated from college and in pain, I needed a change and saw an ad for an Employment Case Manager position at SCCAP (Schoharie). I had never heard of Community Action before but was curious. I got an interview with the Director of Employment and the Commissioner of DSS. The interview went really well… so well, I thought I had the job. I really wanted the job. The more I learned about CA and what it stood for, the more badass CA became! I knew I had to be a part of this revolution! My punk rocker self had found her people (yes, I interviewed with my mohawk, down but still obvious)! And… I did not get the job. Disappointed, I continued on with my job search. About two weeks later, my parents house phone rang. It was SCCAP! The person they originally hired did not work out and they asked if I was still interested in the job. Yes! So began my 25 year+ commitment to CA. There was an in-between period where I finished Grad school and became a practicing licensed therapist. I took that experience and returned to CA. I have been with SCAP (Schenectady) for 20 years now, as a Director. How time flies! I can see myself retiring from CA down the road, way down the road. 

One of the many things I love about CA is our ability to adapt, to truly work with the community and affect systemic change, creating meaningful and lasting change in the lives of all by:

  • Challenging the status quo
  • Shining light on injustices of all kinds for all people
  • Working with other change agents to influence and form policy and laws
  • Elevating voices and rattling cages
  • Listening from our "Huggy Hearts"
  • Making a safe space for all

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

Click here to read all of the 2024 Shine the Light submissions!
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