Our stories deserve the spotlight!
Our stories deserve the spotlight!
Agency spotlights
Success Stories That Shine.

CAAP March 2021 Edition

Agency Partnerships Success Story

Stable Homes and Reliable Vehicles Are Made Possible By BCOC Partnerships During Covid-19

Spotlight on Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC)

BCOC has established partnerships with landlords in Bucks County.  They recently helped a widowed grandmother facing eviction, with the responsibility of raising grandchildren, secure a stable home.

BCOC received a referral from child welfare for a grandmother raising her three grandchildren at the end of 2020 during the pandemic. The family was facing eviction from their apartment after the children’s grandfather passed away. Everything started to pile up quickly and became too much for her to keep up with. The family received a Family Unification Voucher to help with rental costs going forward, but unfortunately, the landlord could not accept the voucher.

The grandmother was determined to find a home for her grandchildren. She had many barriers to access housing, including poor credit and family size. Fortunately, BCOC has a team of Housing Locators who have established relationships with local landlords.  BCOC reached out to one of them, on behalf of the family, for help. The Housing Locators explained how the Housing Choice Voucher program works and the landlord agreed to give the grandmother, BCOC, and the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a chance.  The result was a home for the holidays! 
“We live in this new place and we love it here! My grandson has his own room and my granddaughters too. We are so happy! It’s very nice and quiet here. It was like a miracle!!! I am very grateful for everything,” shares the Grandmother.
The whole family moved into their new apartment on December 3rd.  The children told their grandmother that the staff at BCOC are “Christmas Angels”, but BCOC won't just stop there. 
"We will continue to assist the family, including connecting her with the HELP Center to pick up household items to make this house their new home," says BCOC's Connie McGarvey.
A successful BCOC partnership with the United Way of Bucks County brought transportation to 3 families on the road to economic self-sufficiency.
Three BCOC Economic Self-Sufficiency clients received vehicles courtesy of United Way of Bucks County through a partnership between the two organizations.  It's all part of a "Wheelz2work" program involving Bucks County Community College, Univest Bank and the Gene and Marlene Epstein Humanitarian Fund.  The program continues to seek both good, used automobiles and financial support to help those in need of reliable and safe transportation.
Ryan, Nicole and Sarina were all overjoyed to drive into the holidays with a new set of 'wheelz.' in December of 2020.
Ryan said, "This is the best Christmas we have had in a long time and thank you to all who made this possible." (left image)
Learn more about the #Wheelz2Work program and information about the auto repair companies who provide their services and evaluations for the program.  Through this support of the community, BCOC was able to present their clients with reliable, newly inspected cars.
Year-round, both BCOC and United Way of Bucks County create opportunities for financial stability. That includes helping with transportation. Without reliable cars, people can’t get to work or school. Nicole, Sarina, and Ryan were all on Bucks County Opportunity Council's #Wheelz2Work waitlist. Now they’re on the road to self-sufficiency!  Congratulations Ryan, Nicole and Sarina!
Client Success Stories

Parents As Teachers Program

Spotlight On Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County (CAPLANC)
Social isolation remains a barrier to hope for many families.  CAPLANC's Parents As Teachers Program continues to virtually move the success of each family member forward, despite that sometimes over- whelming isolation.

Maddie's* Story:  A special needs child still needs to develop during Covid-19.  Learn how she manages from home, without in-person supports.
*Name changd for privacy.  Pictured: Maddie's son with special needs.

Maddie has been in CAPLANC's Parents As Teachers Program for almost two years.  Many families are facing the challenge of teaching their children at home during this pandemic, but imagine facing the challenge at home while raising a special needs child. Special needs children have a countless variety of factors impacting the stability of homelife and development.
Maddie's CAP Family Educator, Mithson Cardona explains, "Like many families struggling with the pandemic, she has to deal with family members in the hospital, shortness of supplies at home and off course children out of school."
With the support of CAPLANC, Maddie has managed to keep routines at home to have a positive impact on her child with special needs. She has kept all virtual visits and when doing the activities with her son, she tries to modify them so he is successfully doing them. She also utilizes her resources in her home and her community, to improve his gross/fine motor skill, social ability and cognitive skills. 
Her son can now go up and down the slide stairs happily, sit to eat during meals times, look at her face as she talks with him, wave hi to others, play with his shadow and build a tower with blocks from big to small.  Maddie is proud of all the small steps that she has helped him reach.
Maddie shares when asked about her experience with CAP, “Con la ayuda de Dios y todos mi hijo va ha salir adelante.” / “With the help of God and everyone (at CAP), my son will be reaching his goals.”
The road to long-term, self-sufficiency success is a lonely one for many families out there like Maddies.  Today, we honor her strength and ability to build a connection between her role as a parent, and how her input can have a positive impact on the life of her son.  
Agency Success Story

Strategies For Pardons, Expungements & Employment

Spotlight On Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. 

PSCI's Pardon Hub advocates for Community Action clients with criminal records through the dedication of people like Kurtis Mennitti, PCSI Job Developer and Re-entrant Specialist.
Approximately 90% of the people in PCSI's Workforce program have a criminal background.  Even something as simple as getting a driver’s license for transportation, which keeps them out of even more jeopardy, becomes a challenge.  So, when the opportunity to work with the Pardon Project came about, PCSI partnered with them and other organizations to help overcome the barriers to having a criminal background record.
"Since January 2020, 271 out of 294 individuals registered with PCSI indicate they have a criminal background," says A. Odell Richardson, PCSI's Executive Director.
Over time, PCSI has made tremendous inroads in partnering with employers who will hire people with criminal backgrounds, which has been a long-standing issue.  However, opportunity knocked even further when the process to obtain a pardon, for as many people as possible, was introduced by Tobey Oxholm, Director of the Pardon Project, out of Philadelphia.
In early 2020, Mr. Oxholm, who is a Lawyer in Philly, made a presentation to PCSI's staff under the recommendation of A. Odell Richardson, PCSI's Executive Director.  Mr. Oxholm outlined the whole process, step by step, for this no-cost community development strategy.  The current Lieutenant Governor sits on the pardon committee, which has set up a type of fast-track process to get pardons approved quicker.  He emphasizes that while the current administration is in office over the next two years, agencies should try to get as many people into the pipeline as is possible. 
It takes a long time - about two years from start to finish - for the pardon process to be completed.  There are not enough people in the pipeline and Mr. Oxholm's effort is to get as many people as he can across the state involved.  He could not find anyone involved in the pardon process in the western part of the state.  So PSCI, under the leadership of Odell, decided that they would engage this opportunity to change lives, over the long-term.

“We’re going to step up. This is a significant part of the population that we work with. We’re going to get the Pardon Hub going,” said Odell about that moment in time.
PCSI staff attended the training and they started formally as a hub in June 2020.  Kurt Mennitti, Workforce Developer for PCSI, conducts them and they work with the Public Defender’s office to promote awareness of the program. 

So, what are some numbers since PCSI partnered to becme a Pardon Project Hub for PCSI clients in June of 2020? 
  • 50 PCSI clients have the application process started.
  • 12 have signed up for the next pardon hub on 2/10/21.
  • 22 more people are interested in attending the next event with the Public Defender Office on 03/04/21.
  • 34 additional have watched PCSI's YouTube walk-through video.
PCSI has been guiding as many of those 271 people (like Chelsey Sirmons in the January edition of this newsletter) into their newly developed PCSI Pardon Hub, which offers quarterly Expungement Clinic Events.  These events cover:
  • employment opportunites
  • job readiiness skills
  • the expungement process
  • a walk- through of the pardon application
The 22 YouTube walk-through videos, called "Job Club: Bridge The Barrier", educates individuals with state level charges through a variety of topics related to the pardon process, expungement process and seeking employment with a criminal record.  These videos are hosted by PCSI's very own, Kurt Mennitti, in PCSI's Workforce Development.
Odell also emphasizes to CAAP that people with criminal records are a diverse group and this is not just an urban area issue.  The issue of records impacts both blacks and whites - in both rural and urban areas. 
He seriously encourages all of Community Action, that through our network, which covers the state, to get involved - that we should try to get people involved in that process.  
"Some people might think that it's not relevent to them because they are more rural -  that this might be more relevant to Pittsburgh and Philladelphia.  However, this is also an issue In the countryside and rural areas.   I’m sure the same issues are impacted on both those populations.  A record is a record.” says Odell.
If you are interested in learning more about the PCSI Pardon Hub, please reach out to Kurtis Mennitti or view the 22 instructional videos he developed on PCSI's YouTube Channel called PCSI Workforce Development.  Anyone in PA can benefit from them.
To reach Tobey Oxholm regarding the Pardon Project, send an email, visit his website or call 215-783-2329.
PCSI would also like to thank other partners who contribute daily to the employment of the PCSI clients with criminal records. Duquesne Law School, which has helped foster the expungement program, comes to events to look up records and research how they might be expunged.  It is a long process to expungement that takes up to two years to complete and though it only relates to state charges, Duquesne supports learning whether it can be done.

The other partners that PCSI would like to acknowledge for the successful outcomes of their clients with records include: 
  • Bedford Hill Apartments
  • Allegheny Health Network
  • Columbia Gas 
  • Flagger Force (Specifically with their Mentor Program)
Click here for a recent article in the New Pittsburgh Courier on the Hub.

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Visit CAAP's Success Stories page to read more Community Action stories.
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