Your Stories That Shine!
Your Stories That Shine!
Agency spotlights
Stories That Shine.

CAAP January 2021 Edition

Community Action & Covid-19

We at CAAP commend all our Community Action Agencies, who are working tirelessly to provide as much relief, food distribution, program solutions and education as possible during this pandemic.  This monthly newsletter will share the stories of the progress, successes and impact our Agencies are having, both in response to Covid-19 and to the challenges our individual neighbors & communities face each day.
Client Success Stories


Aram, Jessica, and their daughters, Maleah and Aramya

Spotlight On Tri County Community Action Of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry Counties
Self Sufficiency and OnTrack Program Clients; Rent Relief Recipients
Combatting The Impact Of Covid-19
Situational poverty has the power to affect anyone in the community. This kind of poverty is typically caused by an unexpected emergency or loss. This could be a serious illness, divorce, death, a vehicle breakdown, or a global pandemic.
Tri County Community Action knew early on in the COVID-19 pandemic that it would be hitting families who were already struggling the most -- but what about families who were just getting by?
Meet Aram, Jessica, and their daughters, Maleah and Aramya.  Prior to COVID, their family had financial struggles, but they were able to make ends meet. Aram was the sole provider of his family working as a subcontractor for a hardware department store. Jessica stayed home to care for their two daughters. Maleah and Aramya both have serious medical conditions that allow the family to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Maleah, 13, has neurofibromas (NF1) and is autistic with an intellectual disability, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Aramya is 5 years old with a growth disability called Russell-Silver syndrome, which sometimes means Aramya needs to eat through a feeding tube.
When COVID began to impact the U.S., because of the nature of his work, Aram was laid off from his job. This meant that they now lost their main source of income. In addition to losing his income, Aram has another lingering stress -- keeping his family safe. Along with his two daughters, he himself is immune-compromised. This means that even if Aram can go back to work, he might not be able to for the safety of himself or his family because of COVID. 
Tri County Community Action's (TCCA) Self-Sufficiency Case Manager was able to put Aram and his family back on track by enrolling the family in SNAP benefits and connecting them with school lunch programs for the girls. TCCA also enrolled Aram in the OnTrack program. OnTrack is a special payment plan that offers reduced monthly payments, protection from shutoffs, and debt forgiveness.
In addition, the young parents were able to gain 2 months of rent relief from the CARES Acts through TCCA’s connections. With the help from these programs, TCCA’s Case Manager was able to work with Aram and Jessica to pay off some debts -- allowing the family to have a buffer of credit if they need to go back to relying on credit cards. 
Situational poverty is usually temporary thanks to the social safety nets like TCCA, Community Action Agencies and other programs the U.S. has in place.




A Community Action Client & Business Owner   

Spotlight On Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. (PCSI)

PCSI Training & Support Was There When Chelsey Set New Goals For Change
Chelsey Sirmons faced serious personal barriers, back in 2016, when he was connected with Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. (PCSI) Chelsey was unemployed, required workforce development assistance, was experiencing traumatic physical & mental health issues, had no means of transportation and did have a criminal record. To help him start recovery from his overwhelming situation, he was immediately introduced to PCSI's Case Management, Re-Entrant Services, Training and Workshops, Workforce and Entrepreneurial Skills Development classes.  
"PCSI help me obtain my goals through multiple levels of support, training and resources. When I walked into PCSI, I was tired of my old way of life, and was looking for the opportunity to change.  I just was in search of that one something that would allow me to make my poison my medicine," says Chelsey of his PCSI experience.
Chelsey's eyes were opened to skill-building training and support at PCSI that allowed him to:
  • learn job readiness skills for interviewing, resume writing & applying.
  • connect with employers and locate job opportunities.
  • get connected to resources.
  • attend training and workshops.
  • start a business.
  • manage the pardon and expungement process.
He is a model example of someone who has benefited from working with PCSI. He started with the program four years ago as a drug user, drug addict and was even shot with a firearm once.  Since starting his personal work with the PCSI staff, Chelsey went through rehab, got his recovery certificate, became a certified Peer Support Counselor, and started his own non-profit to provide counseling services.  PCSI helped him get that non-profit business up and going.
"Chelsey is just awesome. He’s a great speaker, and he is driven.  He is just really a good guy that benefited from PCSI's help.  We worked with him every step of the way," shares A. Odell Richardson, PCSI Executive Director.
Chelsey has used the set of new skills and support he received at PCSA to move forward in life not only self-sufficiently, but with an eye toward giving back to others.  He is now a part of the Community Action community itself and the staff at PCSI could not be any prouder of his work ethic.
"Since then, I maintain a life of recovery.  I am a CADC, CRS, TSS, GCDF, and Peer Specialist.  I have also started a non-profit called Metanoias Inc., to which I am the President/CEO. That business involves Mentee/Mentorship, Culture Competency, Substance Abuse Prevention, Mental Health Awareness, and Advocacy," says Chelsey of his experience working with PCSI.

Congratulations, Chelsey! 

You made a big batch of lemonade out of those lemons.

Stay tuned next month.
The February CAAP Update Newsletter will include PCSI's success story with the Pardon Project.  There are 117 PCSI clients with backgrounds, like Chelsey.  Because of the development of the PCSI Pardon Hub, over 50 clients with criminal backgrounds on their records are in the application process for a pardon and expungement.  PCSI will share their partners in the community who help by offering employment.
"There are 13 other PCSI clients who also stepped up and took control of their lives.  They got and maintained employment despite their backgrounds.  Because of our partners in the community, they are all currently working or have a business going," explains A. Odell Richardson, E.D.
 A. Odell Richardson, PCSI's Executive Director, recommends other PA Agencies get involved now -  to get as many individuals into the process, which can take up to 2 years under the current PA administration - learn why starting "now" is so important.
You will also see links to 22 YouTube educational videos, developed by PCSI Workforce Development's, Kurt Mennitti, which any agency can utilize for clients in the state.


Alexandria Milano

Spotlight On Lycoming-Clinton Counties Commission for Community Action (STEP), Inc.
Youth Enrichment Program (YES) Client
A Life Changed Through Youth Enrichment
When Alexandria entered the Youth Enrichment for Success (YES) Program back in September of 2018, she was a young mother with uncertainty facing her future in several ways.  She shared her personal struggles with completing her education, setting employment goals and her developing personal skills as a new mother with STEP, Inc.
Alexandria's STEP, Inc. Family Navigator, Stacy Bower, partnered with her to develop a goal plan that included many areas of her life that, at the time, she was not yet self-sufficient in.  These areas were real barriers to both the long- and short-term stability of Alexandria and her child.
  • writing a resume
  • attending scheduled medical appointments
  • applying for childcare
  • obtaining a driver's permit & photo ID
  • completing the GED examination
  • obtaining part-time employment
  • finding a family medical povider.
STEP referred Alexandria to Penn State Career Pathways, where she completed and attended high school equivalency classes that led to her successful passing of her GED examination.  She also was placed into STEP's Parenting Pathways Course, which covered and guided her in the development of various parenting skills she hadn't yet learned as a new mother.  
Alexandria worked diligently to attend classes, address her parenting skills and accomplish most of the goals she set for herself in 2018.  She is now in a position to seek employment using all of the newly acquired tools and skills she sought from STEP.  Likewise, STEP will continue to partner with her in finding both employers and job openings that will offer her opportunites for further grown, development and long-term financial stability.
We commend Alexandia, having kicked off her search for employment that will help her attain self-sufficiency for her and her child.  We look forward to providing an update on her progress in a future addition of Agency Spotlight. 
We believe in you, Alexandria!

Share Your Stories

We would love to honor your agency's successes, partnerships and accomplishments in our monthly newsletter. 
Your stories will also be highlighted on the CAAP website and in social media posts that help celebrate your successes, praise your partnerships, and educate the public on how individuals and families benefit from Community Action. 
Visit CAAP's Success Stories page 
to read more Community Action success stories. 
Visit CAAP's Success Stories page to read more Community Action stories.
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