Category Archives: Seneca Success Stories


Have you heard of Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency, Inc. (CSCAA)? If you talk to the Seneca Programs Director of CSCAA, Anne Wilkes, you will find out that it is not just a program that touches the lives of people in need; it touches the lives of those who work in this program. The joy is obvious as Anne relates her stories. Her eyes light up and she cannot help but smile as she tells you how people who come to the agency have impacted her. It demonstrates that we are a community that can help each other; that it does not matter what we have or do not have materially; we have an impact on others that we meet.

The stories:
Food bank – a gentleman came to the office to get some food. He just did not know what to do because he had little food. He had applied for food stamps but had yet to receive the card and so he decided that he had to go to a food bank and get some help. CSCAA was able to do more than just give him food. They followed up on his application for food stamps and were able to straighten things out so that he received his card. However, it was the wrong PIN. Again, CSCAA followed through and the gentleman was given the correct card and $496 in back payment so that he could, for the first time in months, go shopping for food and finally get enough for many healthy meals. It was something simple that CSCAA could do but the gentleman could not have been happier.

CSCAA has a food bank where people can come and get a variety of food to meet their needs. They also have clothing at no cost to those who can use it. There is an emergency baby pantry service for parents who have trouble meeting all the costs that come with children, such as diapers.
Emergency housing needs – a woman with a spinal injury needed to be on disability but it was not happening. She could not work so for the first time in her life (approximately 55 years) she could not pay rent. She felt helpless because she could not figure out how she was going to be homeless with a disability. CSCAA was able to help her cover rent and advocate for her. The woman was able to continue to live in her home and not have to worry about becoming homeless in her condition.

CSCAA provides emergency housing costs when situations become desperate and people do not know what to do. They can also advocate for people to help them receive services with other organizations.

Emergency utility payments – another family had a sick child that had to be moved to a hospital near Philadelphia. The parents had to travel to see the child. They set up a air mattress in the back of the vehicle so that they could sleep in that and save the cost of a hotel. In the meantime, things were falling behind back at home because they were not there to keep up on all of it. To their dismay they received word that the utilities were going to be turned off. In despair, they turned to CSCAA who helped them keep their electric and gas on. With this gift that CSCAA was able to give them, they were able to continue to care for their child.

CSCAA offers those in need help with utility payments so that lives can continue without the fear that homes will be ruined with utilities cut off. It brings peace of mind for people who need to have their minds on more important issues.

Sitting behind her desk, Anne humbly tells these stories of real people with the realization that she was able to provide services with the provisions given to Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency. Her excitement is catching and it is not just excitement about the program helping people; it is the excitement of a person who has been touched by others, people who have taught her to appreciate who we are and what we have.

Share This:

Women’s Leadership Council

Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  This is the foundation of the Women’s Leadership Council, a group supporting the goals and values of United Way of Seneca County (UWSC). UWSC focuses on three areas: Education, Income and Health with the idea that if these areas can improve then communities improve as well as individual lives.

The membership of the Council consists of 30 women from different walks of life. Schools, social agencies and businesses are all represented on this Council. The focus is to increase the high school graduation rates with the belief that if students graduate, they are more likely to improve their chances to acquire better jobs; with better jobs they can receive better health care and pay. In this manner, education is the foundation of improving income and health.

How does this Council set about improving education? They start early with The Red Book Shelves. In this program, organizations donate books for children from of all ages and places them on the Red Book Shelves sprinkled throughout the County. Specifically, WLC collects board books. These books go to children and families in the WIC program. Families are encouraged to read to their children to build skills at a young age. New books, provided through grants, private funding and donations, as well as helpful Literacy hints, are also gifted. Books in Spanish and English are provided for Spanish speaking families. Bilingual book offerings find that the grandmother may learn English from the English while the children can learn Spanish from the Spanish, not losing their heritage.

From the SEARCH Institute, the Women’s Leadership Council has developed positive values for each month that parents, schools and any organization can reinforce with children. These values help build children into responsible citizens by first allowing the children to find the best in themselves. For example, A Positive View of Personal Future was the value to reinforce in December 2015. It encourages adults to assist children in many areas such as identifying positive attributes and accepting compliments. The belief is that if children learn to accept who they are, they will feel better about themselves and be less likely to bully others.

As would be expected, schools are a main focus of the Council. In September the Council kicks off school Attendance Awareness by sending messages to schools, parents and posting on their Facebook page. In October they volunteer at the Wellness Fair at Waterloo High School for freshmen where students sign anti-bullying pledges while also gathering information from various organizations on healthy choices and opportunities. In May, the Council recognizes teachers noting that teachers spend a great deal of time with children and can make a huge difference in their lives. In the spring they also host a Career Exploration Day where students can find out what local opportunities in careers are available. June finds the Council focusing on the Summer Slide. They encourage children to continue reading throughout the summer so that their skills do not “slide” backwards. They work with local public libraries promoting the concept that children read a book a week to continue building on skills learned in school. Presently, the Council has sent surveys to staff at schools asking them to identify why they feel students do not graduate.

All of these are worthy aspects of education on which the Women’s Leadership Council focuses. Here’s the thing, though. They do not know if anyone has graduated from school because of anything they do. Most of us would not continue to work on this goal without hard statistics to show that these activities make a difference. These women, however, believe that they must do something to assist others. They believe that as a small group they are making a difference. They believe that if one child has improved their life with opportunities they have provided, then it is all worth it. This is a group of selfless women who work as a single unit to make Seneca County a better place to live for the future generations. This is a group that represents the true spirit of UWSC: “Advancing the common good for all.”

Share This:

Barbara’s Story

Creative Choices Child Care Center

My name is Barbara Westerberg and I’m the director at Creative Choices Child Care Center. I’m here to tell you about the importance of the United Way and how it helps my organization.

The most important thing is education. We at the center are present to care for all children. The best way we do this is by teaching them everything that we can. From infants to 4 year olds, the teachers instill as much knowledge as possible during the day, from arrival to departure. We start out with nursery rhymes, shapes and colors, all the way to patterns/sequencing, basic mathematical skills, and literature through books, poetry and song.

Not only do we work daily on educational skills, we also strive to give the children skills to develop socially. Each classroom works on self-help skills so our children become successful individuals. These skills range from self-feeding to social interactions with peers.
We as educators at Creative Choices Child Care Center strive to give as much as we can to all of the children that we serve. Without the help of the United Way and its donations to the center, we would not be able to help educate/teach as many children as we can.

Share This:

John’s Story

Community Recreation Program

John, age 12, moved into the Seneca County area in the middle of 2013. He was not connected to the school yet and didn’t have any young people to play with in the Interlaken countryside. His mother was worried about starting over in a new place. John had poor communication skills and he is socially awkward, more so than the average child. Very concerned about being targeted and bullied because of his disabilities, John’s mother talked to a local librarian who directed her to ARC.

John’s family connected with Seneca Cayuga ARC and the first service we they offered was Children’s Community Recreation. Because of United Way funding, there was no red tape. Because John, had a documented disability and lived in Seneca County it was all that was needed to start.

Within two weeks of contact, John joined two other boys his age on a trip to the Ithaca Science Center. One of the boys had wanted to go “forever” and had saved his allowance to make the trip. The plan was for them to spend two hours in Ithaca and to get a bite to eat on the way home. By the time the second hour approached, the boys were so engaged in the activities and each other, the staff knew they would find it hard to leave.

A call was made to the office to see if they could use more time. Calls were made to parents and they were thrilled to know the boys were getting along. John’s mother was especially grateful that her son had found some friends. After their busy day in Ithaca, the boys were all delivered home safe and exhausted.

Before the staff person made it back to the office, she received a call from John’s mother. She and John wanted to know when the next activity was scheduled and could he go? John has also has been connected to other services to assist him in becoming more social and learning independent living skills. His mother tells us that she now sees a future for him separate from her.

When John started school he already knew a few of the other children he had met from the recreation program. They have introduced him to their friends and so on and so on. Upon visiting the school, his ARC worker noted that you wouldn’t know he is “the new kid.” Mom reports, John is “blossoming.”


Share This: