Agency In-Service

Annual report shows Community Action

served 4,000 people,

28% percent increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2024 at 10:14 am: 


ALBION – Staff of Community Action of Orleans and Genesee met June 14 at the Albion Elk’s Lodge for their annual in-service event.

Executive director Renee Hungerford and board president Barb Shine each welcomed guests.

Hungerford shared outcomes of the past year and goals for the agency going forward. She explained their theme “A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats” alludes to breaking down silos and lifting each other up together as one agency, while lifting up their communities.

“Today everyone learns about all of our programs so we can better support each other,” Hungerford said. “We should be working as one agency.”

Topics included reorganization, examining their updated community needs assessment, understanding the Medicaid 1115 waiver, a presentation by Skip Helfrich of Leadership Orleans and an overview of ROMA by implementor Cassie Healy.

Introduced were Bonnie Malakie, director of Children and Youth Services set to retire this month; Jackie Dunham, director of Operations/COO; Katrina Standish, director of Community Services and Reporting; Tina Schleede, director of Finance and Administration/CFO; Ryan Lasal, strategic director of Children’s Services and Special Projects; Pam Wadhams, director of Head Start; and members Ronnie Barhite, Laurel Carney, Jackie Fields, Cassie Graff, Bruce Schmidt and chair Barb Shine.

Each individual gave a short presentation on his or her agency.

“The intention was to get all to understand we need to work together as one agency, to lift up the agency and the communities we serve,” Hungerford said. “The content of each of the speeches was to educate staff about each program so we all have a common understanding of what each team does and how we can work together.”

Hungerford said it was a turbulent time when she joined the agency. They needed new technology, and implemented new systems. She explained every program of Community Action is a program of Orleans and Genesee counties.

“We’ve done some incredible things,” she said. “Brand awareness is very important and achieving the outcome.”

She explained the Community Service Block Grant is Community Action’s core federal funding.

During the 2022-23 program year, Community Action served 4,021 individuals, a 28% increase over the previous year and 75% more than the year ending in 2021. That equates to 2,333 households served by the agency, Hungerford said.

In their goal to fight hunger, 1,541 individuals utilized one of their three food pantries; 914 individuals utilized a pop-up pantry distribution; 314 individuals received 5,405 prepared meals at the Eastern Orleans Community Center; and 657 households received holiday meals.

In housing, 311 individuals received assistance to avoid eviction and 129 individuals received utility assistance to avoid utility shut-off.

Employment and Education Support resulted in 194 children receiving school supplies and 18 individuals who received employment support, including supplies, job search assistance, on-the-job training and work appropriate clothing.

Other programs provided weatherization services to 96 homes and air conditioner installation to 75 households through a partnership with the Department of Social Services.

Head Start had 149 children enrolled, of which 149 had a health care provider, 89 received age-appropriate health care and all 149 had age appropriate immunizations.

Fifty-three children were enrolled in Early Head Start, all received age appropriate health care, 28 received age appropriate immunizations and 70% met or exceeded literacy skills.

The Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership had 81 children enrolled, 73 brought up to date on age appropriate immunizations and 92% had three assessments meeting or exceeding average literacy skills.

The Child Care Resource and Referral had 120 individuals receive referrals to licensed child care providers in both counties, 785 units of basic technical assistance and 304 units of Intensive Technical Assistance.

The ACT program (Helping Youth ACT Responsibly), had 421 youth participate in evidence-based comprehensive pregnancy/STD prevention curriculum.

Twenty students attended the Credit Recovery Program, 10 demonstrated basic grade level achievement and five obtained a high school diploma.

The Transportation Program served 132 individuals who received 2,739 one-way bus trips.

Highlights of the past year included welcoming Tina Schleede as the new CFO; adoption of FE Nxt; a successful 60th anniversary celebration; implementing a new phone system as part of a $100,000 IT Investments grant from FLPPS and FLCH; Pam Wadhams promoted to Head Start director; welcoming Ryan Lasal to the newly-created role of Strategic Director of Children’s Services/Special Projects; refreshing the website; receiving change in scope for Head Start to improve enrollment; adding a Young Entrepreneurs program to the Main Street Corner Store; numerous successful prom events; a Stone Soup showdown event with Cornell Cooperative Extension; grand reopening of the Main Street Corner Store; a successful Sip n’ Stroll event; and the second year of the Seed Library and Community Garden.

A number of recommendations were announced as a result of the community needs assessment, including continuation of their goal to help people become self-sufficient, continued support and advocacy to ensure working parents have access to safe and affordable daycare, to continue or expand programs which help customers make healthy food choices, pursue additional opportunities to promote financial literacy, participate in partner programs to increase affordable housing and reduce homelessness, explore expanding the Credit Recovery program to more Orleans County schools to increase high school graduation rates, become a distribution site for fentanyl and xylazine test kits, naloxone and educational materials, increase marketing and other steps to increase brand awareness and public understanding of the important role of Community Action and seek and develop social enterprise opportunities to increase non-grant dependent revenue and increase agency stability.

Hungerford then shared information on population and the poverty rate in Orleans and Genesee counties. In Orleans County, 12.6% of the county’s population of 40,148 are living in poverty. Twenty-eight percent, or 16,203 households are living below the ALICE threshold – Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed (formerly known as the “working poor”).

Genesee County is slightly better, with a 10.4% poverty rate and 23.7% living below the ALICE threshold.

Hungerford also discussed healthcare, saying employer premiums and deductibles have risen much faster than wages since 2010.

She also explained the New York state 1115 Medicaid waiver, which was approved on January 9. The $6.9 billion will be used to advance health equity, reduce health disparities, support the delivery of health-related social needs and promote workforce development.

Looking ahead, Hungerford said their agency will make major improvements in finance management, have a new payroll system (Paychex), continue to focus on helping people become self-sufficient, add two additional paid holidays (Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve), explore social enterprise, do universal intake, explore the 1115 Medicaid waver and Community Action’s HRSN role, restructure and grow, improve brand awareness, update their mission and vision statement and celebrate the agency’s 60th anniversary locally.