In Response to Recent Comments about the Northside

In Response to Recent Comments about the Northside

Yesterday afternoon, Syracuse.com shared Wendy Long’s response to criticism of her comments following a visit to the Northside of Syracuse on August 11. Ms. Long’s original commentary on the neighborhood included a series of inaccurate statements about the character of the neighborhood and the residents who live there.  Her response yesterday was in a similar vein. Ms. Long claims refugees enter this country without thorough screening, which is simply untrue.  Every person seeking refugee status undergoes a rigorous screening process carried out by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and various U.S. security agencies.  In fact, less than 1% of the global refugee population qualifies for refugee status after this process is complete.  We as an agency play no role in granting refugee status to individuals; our role is providing support for those who arrive here.

Catholic Charities believes that everyone—including people of every faith tradition—is worthy of dignity and respect.  Ms. Long’s comments deeply offend many individuals in our city and our core values as an agency.

We know the reality of challenges on the Northside. We live it every day as we work with residents and community members to ensure all individuals have their best chance at success. We know the enormous potential of recent refugees and all those we work with throughout Onondaga County.  Syracuse is a city with a proud immigrant heritage: Germans and Italians on the Northside, Irish, Polish and Ukranian in Tipperary Hill, and many other groups who have left indelible signatures on our region. We will continue to foster stability and independence for all individuals in Syracuse in all stages of life, as we have done since Catholic Charities of Onondaga County was established in 1923.

We applaud those neighbors, partners, organizations and elected officials, Mayor Minor and Congressman Katko, who have responded with dignity to Long’s uninformed and inflammatory comments. We appreciate their defense of the Northside and the refugee population in Syracuse.

Serving Seniors in Syracuse

Serving Seniors in Syracuse

It takes a village to raise a child.

True. Every day in our youth programs, we see how kids benefit from having their “village” support them. Kids have a better chance at success if they have access to supportive programs and positive mentors. These crucial aspects of their village have a significant impact on them.

Here’s a revision to consider on National Senior Citizens’ Day this Sunday, August 21st: it takes a community to care for the elderly. The elderly in Onondaga County, particularly low-income seniors, face many challenges that can make it difficult for them to participate in their community. Lack of adequate transportation, nutrition, home safety concerns and in-home services can combine to make it impossible for seniors to remain in their homes.

Support Seniors in Your Community with a Donation

Our Elderly Services work with seniors and community partners to help ensure these needs are met. We support the elderly and their caretakers to enable the elderly to remain safely living in the community. We address concerns about access to services with our Neighborhood Advisors program, which organizes outreach to seniors who may be in need. Transportation is sought through Area North Transportation Services (ANTS) and referrals to other transportation programs. Concerns about nutrition are addressed through referrals to SNAP, Farmer’s Market Coupons, and the Senior Nutrition Site. Our maintenance program Project Fix is available to address minor home repairs, such as replacing locks and installing grab bars in showers. Personal care, housekeeping services and case management are provided through the EISEP program or through referrals to the Long-Term Care resource center. (For a full overview of programs, visit our site.) This comprehensive suite of programs enabled us to address needs for over 2700 seniors in Onondaga County in 2015.

This is an age group that gives back, too. We work with 340 senior volunteers through our Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). They work with 50 different community agencies that concentrate on hunger, companionship, disaster preparedness, and transportation. Their support is vital to the success of many programs.

So on this National Senior Citizens’ Day, we’d like to share our thanks – a thank you to our seniors, our senior volunteers and the donors who help raise up all members of our “village.”

Donate to Support Seniors in Your Community

Hank and John, RSVP volunteers, at their volunteer location, our downtown food pantry
Hank and John, RSVP volunteers, at their volunteer location, our downtown food pantry

An Appreciation for the Game

An Appreciation for the Game

Above, youth at our Bishop Foery Foundation neighborhood center run in the backyard.

The dog days of summer.  This irrepressible heat reminds me of my boyhood growing up in Watertown, NY.  My friends and I would make our way to the local city park, Kostick’s field, to play sandlot baseball.  The first pitch was thrown somewhere around 9am and the last out was usually made around dinner time.

We were serious about “America’s pastime” and would make all types of adaptations to the game in order to play the game.  Not enough players?  Not a problem; we’d close left field and even center field.  If you hit into one of those fields, it was an automatic out.   Older kids had to hit opposite handed when playing against younger kids.  And there were no walks; either you hit the ball or struck out.  This rule could sometimes lead to what seemed to be an endless stream of pitches being offered up, with the batter lamenting “get one over the plate,” and the fielders drowning “take a swing!”  Games lasted anywhere from four innings to infinity… or at least it seemed that way.   There were no coaches or umpires.  We lived by the honor system and were ruled by the oldest and meanest kid on the field.

We learned a lot of lessons playing sandlot baseball.  If you’re waiting for me to say sportsmanship and team work, well, I guess there was some of that.  What we really learned was an appreciation for the game of baseball: how this sport could transform a dozen kids, all from different backgrounds, into organized teams with clear boundaries and purpose.  It wasn’t about being the best or worst athlete; it was simply about playing the game.

Bishop Foery Youth August 2016 (28)
A program participant (and his bunny ears) at Bishop Foery neighborhood center.

I recently visited one of our Catholic Charities neighborhood centers during the height of our summer program.  During the summer, Catholic Charities provides daily summer programming to over 1500 children living in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city.  On this day, a group of adolescent boys were playing basketball.  They had made several adaptations: half court rules, teams were evenly divided based on size and age, and fouls were called on each other, with no disputes.  I was reminded of my own childhood and thankful that our agency can offer these youth a safe place to meet, recreate, play sports, and learn the value of friendship, team work and an appreciation for the game.  Not a bad gig.

 

Sharing the Sun on Skaneateles

Sharing the Sun on Skaneateles

Kids from our summer youth programs around Syracuse enjoy field trips out of the city every week. The programs are a great chance for the kids to explore the area and, for many, provide a rare opportunity to travel beyond their neighborhoods. One such field trip in particular is a summer institution: Beach Day on Skaneateles Lake.

Beach Day on Skaneateles is a day of fun in the Finger Lakes hosted by the Skaneateles Vincent House Guild. The Guild has been a generous supporter of Vincent House on the Near West Side for decades. In edition to a day on the lake, they hold an annual fundraiser ever year which provides crucial funds to the shelter.

To take part in the fun, see below!

Photos provided by Guild member Kathleen Morrissey.

Fighting Summer Hunger in Syracuse

Fighting Summer Hunger in Syracuse

Many of us look back on childhood summers as a time free from worry – no school, no homework, lots of sunshine and free time. Many of the great things CNY has to offer are in abundance when school’s out. There are great city pools, ice cream trucks, salt potatoes, lots of festivals and community events, and upwards of 15 hours of daylight.

Sadly, for a lot of the kids we serve, summer can be a time of stress, particularly due to lack of food. Outside of their school days, access to healthy meals can be very limited for children living in poverty. This is true around the country – 22 million kids in the US receive free or reduced price meals through the National School Lunch Program during the school year, but only 3.2 million of those kids are reached through the USDA Summer Food Service Program*.

staff member with kid at vincent houseWe and our peer organizations in Syracuse work to close this gap every week. We offer snacks and lunches to kids through summer programming at four of our locations in the city.

Of course, our summer support goes beyond snacks and meals. In our youth programs, kids have opportunities to play and learn in a healthy, supportive environment. We also offer respite programs for families with children with developmental disabilities, allowing families and caretakers a respite while providing integrated activities for the kids. For all the kids we serve, the summer weeks are punctuated with field trips out of their neighborhoods, including to local pools and beaches, museums, community events, the arts and more. Some are even sponsored to spend a week at Lourdes’ Camp.kid at a summer food program youth

Last year, nearly 1,500 children under the age of 18 were served by Catholic Charities’ youth centers. Imagine this – Grant Middle School on Syracuse’s Northside has just over 600 students**. That’s fairly typical for middle schools in our region. Our services reached the equivalent of two entire middle schools.

What that adds up to is a lot of kids in need all year. Our programs work together to meet the unique needs of the different seasons – meals in the summer, cold weather gear in the winter, toys at Christmas. Together we can work to make sure every child in our community has a chance to enjoy being a kid.

 

To support our summer programs, visit us online or call 315-362-7579.

*Summer Food Service Program. 2016. <www.feedingamerica.org>

**Receivership Quarterly Report. 15 April 2016. <http://www.syracusecityschools.com/tfiles/folder258/Grant%20QR3%2015-16%20Receivership%20Report.pdf&gt;

With Open Arms and Blooming Flowers

Our staff at our women and children’s shelter provide critical support to people who arrive in unhappy circumstances. they make sure everyone is properly clothed, fed and sheltered. With guests ranging from infants to adult women, the range of needs are broad. The kids require a constant supply of diapers, baby food and safety gear. The women need support getting back on their feet, including employment assistance, housing assistance and more. Our staff are there to make sure these needs are met.

But who supports the supporters? A wonderful, generous array of donors and volunteers. We couldn’t do our work without them. One of the places where donor and volunteer support is particularly evident is the gardens at our women and children’s shelter. Not only do the gardens add beauty to the house, many of the plants grown are edibles which will be enjoyed by residents.

Take a stroll through the halls and gardens of the house in the gallery below. Our special thanks to the Brockway Farms Garden Club, Linda Mulrooney and all of the volunteers and staff who gave of their resources and time to make this lovely garden come together.

 

 

 

Summer with Project Joseph

Summer with Project Joseph

There is an interesting disconnect in Syracuse – there are many unemployed people and many job openings (syracuse.com). What’s keeping the unemployed from taking advantage of the open jobs?

For many of the people we work with, the answer is language barriers, lack of appropriate training or a complex personal history. Some struggle with homelessness or substance abuse, but want to recover and work. That’s where programs like our Project Joseph come in. Project Joseph Logo

Project Joseph is a social enterprise where we train and employ the people we serve, including refugees and homeless shelter residents. Through training in property maintenance skills, these men can gain the skills they need to get jobs either with Catholic Charities or in the private sector with the boost of a reference.

With the spring weather finally upon us, you might see some of these crews out and about working on our sites. We recently visited a crew working at our West Side parenting center, as seen in the photos below.

project Joseph at Vincent House 2016 (4)
Project Joseph workers are international. They hail from the the US, Nepal, Somalia, Poland, Bosnia, Uzbekistan, Kenya and more.

 

project Joseph at Vincent House 2016 (5)
Work at the parenting center included painting doors and the railings, banister and floor of the front porch.

 

project Joseph at Vincent House 2016 (6)
In addition to working on Catholic Charities sites, team members do light maintenance work for senior citizens in the community.

 

Dean and Al Project Joseph
In 2015, eight Project Joseph workers who completed training were hired to work on Catholic Charities sites, including Al and Dean, seen here.

We’re excited about this new and growing program, and grateful for the community support that makes it possible. To learn more about the program, please contact Project Joseph Program Director Jake Barrett at 315.362.7500 or projectjoseph@ccoc.us.