Students in classroom
Crisis and Suicide Prevention
Mental Health Training
Student Progamming
Grant After School Program
Teacher training
Community Resources
List of Programs
Schedule for Training
Teen Talk Radio
News and Events
Web Resources
About and Affiliations
Financial Information
Brochures and Posters
Contact Us and Location

Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
Contact Community Services

News & Events
Teens Show Spirit at First TeenFest
August 12, 2016
(permanent link)

The inaugural TeenFest that was held August 6 at the Palace Theatre in Syracuse was created to help teenagers make healthy choices and highlight their incredible talents. The event surpassed those goals in many ways, particularly with one of the scheduled performers, Tyler Lamb.

Tyler, 17, and classmate Ned Greenough, both of Phoenix, form a band called Moons Aligned and they were one of TeenFest’s six musical acts. Tyler is seriously ill and was determined to perform at the event, but he couldn’t make it.

Still, thanks to the teens, Tyler was there in spirit. The teens from Contact Community Services’ Teen Talk program who organized this event created a "Spirit Award" that was presented to Ned following the event by Rachel Tarr, Contact’s Coordinator of Youth Engagement who oversees Teen Talk. In subsequent years, the award will be called the "Tyler Lamb Spirit Award" and presented to a teen who shows Tyler’s indomitable spirit.

Ned Greenough accepts the Spirit Award
Ned Greenough accepts the Spirit Award on behalf of his best friend, Tyler Lamb.

With Tyler watching on FaceTime, his bandmate Ned played an emotional set that he dedicated to his best friend. The other TeenFest bands played some of Tyler’s favorite songs during their sets, and at the end of the night they all joined together to play "Lean on Me" for Tyler. The incredibly talented TeenFest musical lineup included Last Hope Entertainment, Moons Aligned, Payton Bird, The Outer Loop, The Easy with Kidd O’Ryan and The Cuddlefish, the 2016 JCC Battle of the Bands winner.

All bands played together
The TeenFest performers ended the night playing "Lean On Me" for Tyler.

About 350 people attended TeenFest, which was free and open to the public and featured giveaways and raffles, food available to purchase and vendor tables with information that will help teens make healthy choices.

TeenFest is the brainchild of the high school students who participate in Contact’s Teen Talk program. Teen Talk is a weekly, web-based radio show by, for and about teens as the "Teen Talkers" discuss their challenges and choices regarding relationships, school, alcohol and drugs, and other sensitive topics.

The Teen Talk students created TeenFest because there are few events where teens can have fun and learn in a way that appeals to them. The Teen Talk students were involved in all aspects of TeenFest, from selecting the performers and vendors to fundraising and marketing.

"Once the concept was developed, we quickly got to work with our adult advisors in getting donations, vendors, and sponsors to put this festival together for our fellow teens," said Jaclyn Turner, a Teen Talk student who’s entering her senior year at Corcoran High School. "TeenFest has been designed to encourage teens to find alternatives to negative behaviors and also seek the healthy and positive aspects of life."

"Our hope is that this TeenFest is the first of many to come, and that it helps the community realize the potential and importance of its teens," Jaclyn added.

In the week before the event, TeenFest received extensive coverage from all of the major media outlets in Syracuse, including, Bridge Street, and the Ted and Amy and Big Mike radio shows (you’ll find the radio appearances at the top of the Teen Talk podcasts).

Acadia Donates to Prevent Teen Suicides
August 11, 2016
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Acadia Insurance Group and its W.R. Berkley Corporation Charitable Foundation for its recent $2,450 donation to Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention programs and trainings. Specifically, Acadia wants the funds to target the programs and trainings dedicated to the prevention of teenage suicides.

"At Acadia, we have built into our vision statement the desire to give back to the communities where we operate," said Joseph Gresia, Acadia’s Regional Vice President and Branch Manager for New York. "We are pleased to be part of this community and are delighted to make this donation to such a worthy charity as yours. We are grateful for the work that you do."

Acadia’s Dana Gucciardi presents a check for $2,450 to Contact’s Cheryl Giarrusso.

Dana Gucciardi, a Senior Claim Specialist at Acadia’s Syracuse office, visited Contact August 9 to tour the crisis and suicide prevention Hotline facility and meet with Executive Director Pat Leone and Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso. Dana also presented the $2,450 check to Cheryl.

"We appreciate Dana and Acadia’s support and their determination to prevent teen suicides, which continue to rise," Pat said. "This donation will go directly toward our free and confidential crisis and suicide prevention services, trainings and information that we provide to teenagers through our Hotline, Crisis Chat online service, and school programs."

Learn more about Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention services and the Acadia Insurance Group.

Teen Talkers Create TeenFest Music Event
July 30, 2016
(permanent link)

The first TeenFest, a live music event created by teenagers and for teenagers, will be held from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Palace Theatre in the Eastwood neighborhood of Syracuse.

TeenFest is the creation of the high school students who participate in Contact Community Services’ Teen Talk program. Teen Talk is a weekly, web-based radio show by, for and about teens as the "Teen Talkers" discuss their challenges and choices regarding relationships, school, alcohol and drugs, and more.

The Teen Talk students created TeenFest because there are few events where teens can have fun and learn in a way that appeals to them. The event features bands and musicians from area high schools, food, giveaways and raffles, and vendor tables with information that matters to teens. The Teen Talk students are involved in all aspects of TeenFest, from selecting the performers and vendors to fundraising and marketing.

"I believe our festival is something that will help all teens, show us some steps we need to take to be ready to enter the ‘real world,’ and guide us in making healthy decisions," said Jacyln Turner, a Teen Talk student who’s entering her senior year at Corcoran High School.

TeenFest is free and open to the public, and food can be purchased from the Palace Theatre concession stand or vendors. Free parking is available in the Palace lot and surrounding lots.

For more details, download the TeenFest fact sheet (PDF) or visit the TeenFest website and TeenFest Facebook event page. Visit the TeenFest Go Fund Me page if you’d like to support the event.

The Band Lineup

The Cuddlefish, the winner of the 2016 JCC Battle of the Bands, is the headline act for TeenFest. Primarily an alternative ska band, The Cuddlefish consists of five friends from Onondaga High School: Ryan Cass (keyboard), Noah Dardaris (drums), Max Marcy (guitar), Garrit Peck (vocals, bass) and Joe Russo (trombone).

The Cuddlefish will be the sixth and final band to play at TeenFest. Here’s the lineup featuring talented bands and musicians from local high schools:

Payton Bird

Exotic and Sk8board
Last Hope Entertainment

  • Last Hope Entertainment (5:30 p.m.): Hip hop and rap duo Exotic and Sk8board.

  • Moons Aligned (6 p.m.): Soft rock with Tyler Lamb (guitar) and Ned Greenough (keyboard/vocals).

  • Payton Bird (6:30 p.m.): Singer and guitarist with a love for modern and old school country music.

  • The Outer Loop (7 p.m.): Hard rock/indie band with Nate Conroy (bass), Mark Dellefave (drums/keyboards) and Brendan McMahon (guitars/vocals).

  • The Easy with Kidd O’Ryan (7:30 p.m.): The Easy is a jazz/R&B/alternative band with Brandon Anthony (vocals/guitar), Connor Anthony (piano), Ajay Hosking (bass/guitar/vocals), Eric O’Mara (drums) and Noah Poirier (trumpet). Kidd O’Ryan is a rapper, vocalist and collaborator. The Easy and Kidd O’Ryan will also perform a warm-up jam starting at 5 p.m.

  • The Cuddlefish (8 p.m.)

The Cuddlefish

Contact Gets a Tootle From Porter Teachers
July 14, 2016
(permanent link)

The teachers on the first-grade team at Porter Elementary School are giving Contact Community Services a "Tootle" for implementing the PAX Good Behavior Game at their school.

Under the direction of Behavioral Specialist Allison Zales, Contact’s School Services department introduced PAX GBG this past school year to all grades at Porter. PAX GBG integrates some of the best scientifically proven strategies for elementary school classrooms and teaches students to "flip on" their internal focus switch to self-regulate between learning and fun. Students learn how to delay gratification toward a bigger goal, reducing problem behavior and teacher and student stress.

As part of the game, students are encouraged to be generous with Tootles – old-fashioned thank you notes that let other people know you appreciate and value them.

Contact Gets a Tootle From Porter Teachers

The first-grade team at Porter recently sent this "Tootle" to Allison:


The first grade team wanted to thank you for the training you provided for us during the summer for PAX and also for the ongoing support you have provided us throughout the school year.

We started PAX right away with the students as we were discussing the classroom rules. It was a "natural fit" in building the classroom community and procedures. We found it very important to play with fidelity and be consistent with the rules of the game. We noticed several benefits to playing the PAX good behavior game compared to the previous years where we did not play.

Some of the benefits that we have noticed are as follows:

  • PAX helps promote respect
  • PAX helps children understand instruction better and keeps the flow of the lesson moving
  • The students are much more aware of their behaviors and the behaviors of their peers
  • PAX creates less distractions during learning time
  • PAX creates a friendlier, more fun and calm atmosphere
  • PAX helps with transitions times in the classroom as well as the hallways, cafeteria etc.
We also noticed that by using the same PAX language and using the harmonica and the other "kernels," it has brought a cohesiveness to the classroom and in our situation building-wide. The great thing about PAX is one teacher can do it or the whole building.

We feel that the students really bought into the PAX game and the Granny’s Wacky Prizes. We could see how it made the students more aware of themselves and increased their motivation. The students also liked giving and receiving tootles (the written compliments). We encourage other teachers to embrace and dive into the PAX game. There are so many benefits to playing.

If a teacher can watch another experienced teacher playing it will become quickly apparent of what an asset the game is.


The 1st Grade Team
Teresa Zollo
Rosa Trapasso
Sharon Tait
Amy Bluem

Learn How to Play the PAX GBG.

Karin Davenport, Communications Specialist in the Syracuse City School District’s Office of Communications, visited Meachem Elementary School this past school year to observe students and teachers playing the game and wrote about it on the district’s website.

Dr. Jason Fruth, one of the nation’s leading child intervention specialists, visited Contact Community Services in late September and introduced PAX GBG to local school teachers, counselors and administrators. Watch Dr. Fruth explain how playing PAX GBG is like practicing free throws.

Contact Mourns Passing Of Volunteer Jerry Horton
July 12, 2016
(permanent link)

Jerry Horton Dear Contact Family, It is with much sadness that we learned of the passing of longtime Hotline volunteer Jerry Horton. He was an integral part of the Contact family for 42 years and will be deeply missed. Jerry touched many lives; may his beautiful soul rest in peace.

Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. July 16 at First United Church of East Syracuse, 823 Franklin Park Drive. View Jerry’s online obituary.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jerry and his family.

Kristine Knutson, Program Manager
Volunteer Relations, Contact Community Services

HealthLink On Air Spotlights Suicide Prevention
July 3, 2016
(permanent link)

HealthLink on Air, a program of Upstate Medical University, recently invited Contact’s Cheryl Giarrusso and Stephanie Lewis on the radio show to discuss suicide prevention with host Linda Cohen. The interview aired on WRVO Public Media on July 3.

Cheryl Giarrusso (left) and Stephanie Lewis
Contact’s Cheryl Giarrusso (left) and Stephanie Lewis after recording HealthAir on Link show at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse.

Cheryl, Contact’s Director of Crisis Intervention Services, and Stephanie, Contact’s Program Manager for Crisis Intervention Services, discussed in detail the many crisis and suicide prevention services offered at Contact. Thank you to Linda and the HealthLink on Air team for inviting us to share this important information to a radio audience that stretched from Watertown to Cortland and Utica to Geneva.

Contact Salutes Volunteers & Donors
June 27, 2016, 2016
(permanent link)

About 80 volunteers, donors, board members and staff attended Contact Community Services’ annual "Volunteer & Donor Celebration" June 23 at Justin’s Tuscan Grill in East Syracuse to honor 2016 Volunteer of the Year Paula Freedman and our other award winners: Karen and Martin Carpenter (30th Anniversary Award), Patricia Quick (Student Scholar Award), and Andy Hassinger (Mr. 52 Award).

Cutline: Contact Community Services’ Volunteer Award winners, from left to right, Paula Freedman, Karen Carpenter, Martin Carpenter, Andy Hassinger and Patricia Quick. Kristine Knutson, Volunteer Relations Program Manager, is standing behind Patricia.

Volunteer Relations Program Manager Kristine Knutson and Contact Executive Director Pat Leone hosted the event, and Lorraine Mertell, President of Contact’s Board of Directors, also addressed the crowd to explain why serving on the board is important to her and our community. Thank you to everyone who attended and to Justin’s staff for its hospitality, and we’re already looking forward to next year’s event!

We would also like to extend a special thank you to Dan Lovell, the Director of Technology and Digital Communications at the United Way of Central New York who created videos of our award winners that were shown at the event. You can watch the videos on our YouTube channel:

Karen and Martin Carpenter (30th Anniversary Award)

Patricia Quick (Student Scholar Award)

Andy Hassinger (Mr. 52 Award)

Paula Freedman (Volunteer of the Year)

Paula Freedman Named Contact’s Volunteer of Year
June 9, 2016
(permanent link)

Paula Freedman

When Paula Freedman was told she had been named Contact Community Services’ 2016 Volunteer of the Year, her first thought was that the award "should go the other way.

"I was greatly surprised," Paula said. "I do this because I love doing it, so in some ways I feel like the award should go the other way, in that I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be part of this community in a way that I feel like I have something to offer and can make a difference."

Paula has been making a difference as a member of Contact’s Board of Directors for 15 years and throughout Central New York for her entire adult life as she sits on several community-minded boards, including the United Way of Central New York. Paula will be honored as Volunteer of the Year at Contact’s "Volunteer and Donor Celebration" June 23 at Justin’s Tuscan Grill in East Syracuse.

This year’s other volunteer award winners are Karen and Martin Carpenter (30th Anniversary Award), who have been Contact Hotline volunteers for 30 years; Patricia Quick (Hotline Scholar Award), a Keuka College intern who was a valuable contributor to our crisis and suicide prevention team; and Andy Hassinger (Mr. 52 Award), who completed 52 Hotline shifts in 52 weeks.

Paula, who currently serves as the Contact Board’s Corresponding Secretary, became familiar with Contact when she was working for the Onondaga County Youth Bureau. Contact was partly funded by the bureau, and Paula was responsible for monitoring Contact’s use of county money.

When she left the bureau, Paula asked then-Contact Executive Director Jan Liddell if she could join the board and she has played an integral role in Contact’s growth over the years under Jan and her successor, Pat Leone. Contact started out as a crisis and suicide prevention Hotline in 1971 and has expanded into a multi-faceted organization that supports the social, emotional, behavioral and mental health of children and adults through phone and online counseling, a variety of trainings, and several student programs from K-12.

"Contact has gradually but consistently expanded into new arenas, so it’s an agency that block by block made itself a very important agency in this community," Paula said. "It’s an agency that both carefully and thoughtfully has gotten both wider and deeper in the services that they offer and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so enthusiastic about it because it’s not an organization that just says, ‘Oh, I’ve got a new idea, let’s do that, maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t.’ It’s an organization that carefully researches and expands based on proven need."

As a member of other boards, Freedman said she sees those needs throughout the community. She’s pleased to be a part of a process at Contact in which those needs are carefully assessed and evaluated to determine if Contact is the right agency to fill a particular need.

"It’s being constantly attuned to what’s happening in the community, based not just on hearsay and anecdote, but based on actual research about what is the data showing us about what is working and what is not working," she said. "Where can we succeed? Or is there an opportunity that’s just not worth getting into because it’s not part of our mission."

Paula said the biggest problem confronting our community at this time is poverty. At first glance, that doesn’t seem to fit Contact’s mission. But look closer and Paula said Contact provides services that could help people before they fall into poverty.

"Whether it’s a family crisis, a housing crisis, they’re doing OK at the moment but are on the verge," Paula said. "So I think Contact will be very influential as this community addresses poverty. And part of what makes it influential is that it’s not only addressed at the pockets of poverty that we know about in this community, but addressed overall and the needs people have that can put them at risk.

"Also, the emphasis on trying to make sure that kids get the right services and that kids finish school because we know if they don’t finish school, their chances (of succeeding) are terrible," she continued. "So various programs that Contact runs that address keeping kids in school and helping them get through crisis and problems will also address poverty."

As Paula continues to be a champion for Contact and our community, she’ll likely receive more unexpected phone calls like the one telling her about her Volunteer of the Year Award. The call that Paula expected to receive? Not going to happen.

"If I have a fear of any unexpected phone call, it was not to be asked to be volunteer of the year, I keep waiting for somebody to say you’ve been on this board too long, you’ve got to go," she said, smiling. "I’m thrilled that I’m allowed to continue."

Paula is featured in the June 2 United Way Community Update.

Henninger Student Appreciates Contact’s SAP Counselor
May 18, 2016
(permanent link)

Students from Henninger High School in the Syracuse City School District photographed and interviewed non-teaching members of the school to create an art exhibition called "Henninger High School: Inside Out." The students in Megan Rombel’s and Lori Lizzio’s art classes worked with professional artist and photographer Marilu Lopez-Fretts to create the exhibition that was featured during a reception on May 12 at ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse.

We’re proud to say that Henninger student Jannah Shehadeh chose Erica Brier-Kennedy, a Student Assistance Program counselor at Contact Community Services, as the subject for her photograph and interview (see her story about Erica below her photo of Erica). As you can see from Jannah’s story, Erica makes a positive impact in the Henninger community every day as she works with individual students and student groups. Contact has dedicated Student Assistance Program counselors like Erica in all five Syracuse City School District high schools and Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

Erica, SAP Counselor

ITC Students Support Tolerance For All
May 10, 2016
(permanent link)

In late April, Erin Davies was attacked by a man while she stood in line at a Syracuse post office. According to police, the man said "he was going to kill" Erin, who travels across the country in a Volkswagen Beetle that she turned into a symbol of gay pride.

After the incident became public, the members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club at The Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central wrote a letter to the editor to saying they are proud of Erin and wanted her and other LGBTQ people to know that they are not alone. The students said they want tolerance to exist in our city toward every individual and group of people.

Erin Davies travels the country in a
Volkswagen Beetle she calls "Fagbug."

Cindy Squillace, Contact’s Student Assistance Program Counselor at ITC, worked with the club to get the letter published on Read the original story about Erin that caught the students’ attention.

Learn more about Contact’s Student Assistance Program and how counselors like Cindy work daily with groups and clubs such as ITC’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club.

Day of Silence Supports LGBTQ Students
April 19, 2016
(permanent link)

On April 15, students at Corcoran and the Institute of Technology at Central high schools in the Syracuse City School District observed the Day of Silence, a student-led national event that brought attention to anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Students around the country from middle school to college took a vow of silence to encourage their classmates to silence the devastating impact of bullying on LGBTQ students and those perceived to be LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning).

Contact Student Assistance Program Counselors Katie Arney-Rattray (left) and Christine LeCates (center) play a game with Corcoran High School students that teaches them about the language used in the LGBTQ community.

At Corcoran, Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program Counselors Christine LeCates and Katie Arney-Rattray helped organize a week-long event to support the Day of Silence and Corcoran’s GSTA (Gay, Straight, Transgender Alliance) students. The events included announcements, classroom presentations, tabling events with fun games that educated students, relationship skits, and a visit from the Q Center in Syracuse, which is a safe place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth, their families and allies to gather. Many Corcoran students also wore masks to make a statement about the silence that falls across our community.

At ITC, Contact Student Assistance Program Counselor Cindy Squillace participated in the event by helping students create a Day of Silence bulletin board featuring "I’m An Ally Because..." posters. Several ITC students also created artwork that depicted their vision of the Day of Silence and the impact bullying has on the LGBTQ students in their school.

Bulletin Board featuring Im an Ally

Im an ally because...posters

Contact would like to thank Christine, Katie and Cindy for their roles in helping students recognize this important event. Find out more about what Contact’s Student Assistance Program counselors are doing in our area schools.

"I Am Going to Control My Own Future"
March 16, 2016
(permanent link)

By Jesse Rodriguez
Youth Development Specialist
Danforth Middle School

This is a success story is about a young man named "Joe." During his sixth-grade school year, Joe skipped class every day and had little or no respect for his teachers or any building staff. Joe started his seventh-grade this school year the same way—skipping class and still not respecting the adults in the building.

Midway through this past October, Joe and I had a heart-to-heart discussion about his future and his plans for it. I shared with Joe some of my experiences as a young adult and that seemed to spark his interest. During that conversation, something we talked about seemed to have an effect on Joe.

The very next day I assumed that Joe was not in school because he was absent from the hallways. Later on, when I saw Joe in his classroom, he shouted to me, "I am going to control my own future." I was excited to hear those words coming from Joe, but I was initially skeptical.

However, since our heart-to-heart conversation in October, Joe has attended the majority of his classes and is catching up very quickly. Joe is also a member of the Danforth basketball team and doing well there. It seems to me that Joe has indeed decided to "control his own future." If this complete turnaround continues, Joe’s future will be filled with promise and success.

Im going to control my own future

Learn more about how Contact’s Youth Development program is benefitting students throughout Central New York.

Hotline Volunteer Making a Difference
March 6, 2016
(permanent link)

Like many college students in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Sue Navagh was going to change the world.

"I came up here from New York City in a time, I’m sure you know, we were the Age of Aquarius, we were going to change the world," Sue said, laughing. "Well, with life and age you realize you’re never going to change the whole world."

"But I came through my youth believing that if I can’t change the world, I want to change a little bit of it somehow and make a difference," she said. "So I’ve always done volunteer work. I really believe that our job is to leave a decent footprint and to make a difference. I just believe in it."

Sue believes in it because she knows first-hand the impact a volunteer can have on someone’s life. When her marriage ended, Sue found comfort through calls to Contact Community Services’ crisis and suicide prevention Hotline, which is staffed mostly by volunteers.

Sue Navagh

"Through the very strange time of suddenly being single and also winding up empty nesting, because the youngest child left for college, I was completely flummoxed and devastated," Sue said. "I found this (Hotline) number through my doctor’s office and started calling it. That was nine years ago and they were wonderful."

As Sue got back on her emotional feet, she decided she wanted to help out on the other end of the Hotline. But that was easier said than done at first because the skills needed for the Hotline can be counterintuitive.

"If you’ve been a mother, if you’ve been even a friend, you tend to want to fix problems for people. That is not what we do here," Sue said. "We do reflective listening, and that is an interesting skill, to know when to just listen and listen sympathetically, but not to always say ‘OK, well this is what you need to do to fix it.’ "

As a hospital volunteer before joining Contact, Sue learned another valuable skill that comes in handy as a Hotline volunteer: How to compartmentalize.

"You need to be able to take the fear and the sadness and all that and put it somewhere so it doesn’t affect the rest of your life," Sue said. "Because there are days that are very, very sad and very hard."

Kristine Knutson, the Volunteer Relations Program Manager at Contact, said many of the Hotline volunteers, like Sue, have had a personal or family experience with depression and that helps them focus on the caller.

"They can bring an extra level of empathy, and I think they have worked on the skill to be able to be present and be with the caller, and listen to the caller, without injecting their own views or their own agenda into the call," Kristine said.

Sue has been there, and as a result she is changing the world – one caller at a time.

"You walk out and you get in your car and you think, ‘OK, even if it was for two moments, I made somebody’s day a little better today,’ " Sue said. "And it makes you feel like you did something useful for the day."

If you’re interested in joining the Contact Hotline team as a volunteer, the next training is May 13-15. Get more information about volunteering and the training.

"I love that there’s no judgement whatsoever in this room"
February 23, 2016
(permanent link)

Syracuse City School District students from Corcoran, Fowler, Henninger, ITC and Nottingham high schools are learning to create a supportive school culture through GSTA (Gay, Straight, Transgender & Allies) Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), LGBT+ Alliance, and Social Justice meetings. Learn more about these groups in this story from Syracuse City School District Communication Specialist Karin Davenport.

quotes bulletin board
One way members of the GSTA group at Corcoran High School support each other is through this quotes bulletin board. (Photo courtesy of Corcoran Student Assistance Program counselor Katie Arney-Rattray).

These groups work closely with Contact’s Student Assistance Program (SAP) counselors. Learn more about the Student Assistance Program and how our counselors are supporting various student groups.

Happy Anniversary 211CNY!
February 13, 2016
(permanent link)

On February 11 (2/11), Contact Community Services and the United Way of Central New York, United Way of Greater Oswego County and United Way of Northern New York celebrated the one-year anniversary of the 2-1-1 information and referral phone line in Central and Northern New York.

211CNY has received about 52,000 calls and nearly 47,000 website visits since the free, 24/7 service started in February 2015. 211CNY provides residents in Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties with important health and human service information about housing, food, mental health services, senior assistance, substance abuse treatment centers, and much more.

Watch Michele Anson, Contact’s Coordinator of Crisis Intervention Services, and Katie White, Contact’s Resource Specialist for 211CNY and Crisis Intervention Services, discuss 211CNY on NewsChannel 9’s Bridge Street. Michele and Katie were also interviewed by the United Way of Central New York for its February 11 Community Update.

Contact’s Katie White (second from right) and Michele Anson (far right) appeared on NewsChannel 9’s Bridge Street to discuss 211CNY.

211CNY is funded by New York State and the five counties it serves and is part of the New York State and nationwide 2-1-1 network. Contact is the designated 2-1-1 call center for the five-county area. In Onondaga County, the United Way of Central New York is the lead agency overseeing the 2-1-1 service.

"2-1-1 CNY is an easy way for people to get connected and get answers, and local human service agencies are finding 2-1-1 a very user-friendly resource in helping their clients," said Frank Lazarski, United Way of CNY President. "We thank New York State for the continued support of 2-1-1 in Central New York and across the state."

Listen to the United Way’s 211CNY Public Service Announcement.

211CNY is particularly helpful to the elderly and disabled, those having a personal crisis, and people with limited reading skills and English language abilities. The service is confidential and callers speak to an actual person at Contact’s call center, not a recording.

Learn more by visiting the 211CNY website. And if you or someone you know has a developmental disability, visit the 211CNY Disability website for important information and resources.

Contact Executive Director Pat Leone,Cheryl Giarrusso,New York State Sen. David Valesky, United Way President Frank Lazarski, Robin Robinson, Betty Joan Beaudry
Contact Executive Director Pat Leone (far left) and Director of Crisis Intervention Services Cheryl Giarrusso (second from left) recently met with New York State Sen. David Valesky (third from right) and other United Way and 211 CNY representatives to discuss the 211CNY service in Sen. Valesky’s District. Also in the photo is United Way of Central New York President Frank Lazarski (far right), United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area President Brenda Episcopo (second from right) and Director of Community Investment Robin Robinson (center), and 211 Mid-York Liaison Betty Joan Beaudry.

Shop Amazon, Support Contact
February 5, 2016
(permanent link)

AmazonSmille If you’re an Amazon shopper, you can support Contact Community Services simply by joining the Amazon Smile program. It’s free and easy, and here’s what you need to know:

  1. Visit You’ll need to create an Amazon account if you don’t already have one (you can use the same account on and AmazonSmile).

  2. You can search for Contact Community Services and designate it as your charitable organization to receive donations from eligible purchases. You’ll know you’re donating to Contact when you see "Supporting: Contact Community Services Inc." under the search bar.

  3. Shopping from is the same as shopping from, and 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases will be donated to Contact Community Services.

  4. There is no extra cost to you, and you can participate in the program whether you’re an Amazon Prime member or not.

  5. These donations are made through the AmazonSmile Foundation and are not tax deductible by you. You can also make a personal tax-deductible donation to Contact by using the "Make A Donation" button in the bottom of the left-hand column of our homepage.

"I Hope I Make Them Smile!"
February 2, 2016
(permanent link)

By Lily Zawadzki
Youth Development Specialist
Roxboro Road Elementary School

As a Youth Development Specialist, it’s my job to encourage young learners to become stronger and well-rounded members of our community. From their academics to their behaviors and all of the social/emotional skills in-between, I focus on developing the whole person and guiding young people on the journey called life. A huge focus of my job is to teach skills to children I work with so they can carry these skills with them throughout their bright futures.

One aspect of my day is to plan and implement "lunch bunches." Lunch bunch is a great time for my students to meet in small group settings. Lunch bunches give my students time to relax in a calm environment, talk about issues they are facing, practice academic skills by playing interactive games, and develop social skills.

Lily lunch bunch kids
Lily Zawadzki’s lunch bunch students worked hard creating their thank you cards.

I have noticed in years past that during the month of December so many of my students love to talk about what they want. "I want this." "I’m asking for this for Christmas." "I really hope I get this." I hear this day-in and day-out while working with elementary school-age children. I love to see how excited children are around the holidays, but this year I wanted them to get excited for a different reason: I wanted them to be excited to give back. I love to focus on one specific skill at a time so I know my students truly grasp the whole concept. For the month of December, I decided that we would discuss kindness as our focus skill.

To start off this kindness lesson, I found a wonderful activity on a teacher’s website that showed applications to a "Kind Kids Club." I used the application as an activity to brainstorm what kindness really means in a group discussion. After our discussion, my students filled out mock applications and watched a cute YouTube clip of a class that participates in random acts of kindness to members of its school community. As a group, we discussed how they would like to give back to members in our school who might not always get a "thank you" for their hard work. They decided what members of the school staff they would like to surprise with a random act of kindness and they got right to work!

My classroom turned into an art studio. We had feathers, pompoms, glitter and stickers. I had paper of every color sprawled across our tables and scraps littered the floor. I was still cleaning glue off of the desks two days later! In the end, however, my students created masterpieces. The best part was how truly happy and excited they were to give their hard work to someone who would appreciate it. Students made thank you cards for our custodial staff, their teachers, their social worker, and the school principal. They also made name tags for the secretaries that had their names written on the front and a positive message for them to read every day on the back. They worked diligently for two lunch bunch sessions on their creations, perfecting them before they had a chance to deliver them to the right recipient.

School Principal Jacquelyn Grace
Roxboro Road Elementary School Principal Jacquelyn Grace thanks the students for their kindness

When we were on our way to deliver our "thank you" cards and positive messages, I could see the excitement building. There were smiles, giggles and talk about what their message receivers would say when they read their letter. One of my students exclaimed, "I hope I make them smile!" This truly made me happy. My students were being kind! And they were so thrilled about being kind! They were getting to experience how good you feel when you do something kind for someone else without them expecting it. There were a lot of hugs, smiles, and surprised looks from of the recipients and it was truly a happy day for all. I can honestly say that I work with a group of very kind kids.

Learn more about how Contact’s Youth Development program is benefitting students throughout Central New York.

Contact/211CNY Answer the Call
January 29, 2016
(permanent link)

"I have been using drugs heavy and I want to stop or die. I have nowhere to turn to."

This email came to us through the 211CNY website at 6:29 a.m. Sunday, January 10. A few hours later, we sent this reply:

We’re really glad that you reached out to us today. It sounds like you’re going through a difficult time right now but you’ve taken the first (and often most difficult) step by asking for help. We are here to provide you with any resources and support that you might need during this time.

You said in your inquiry that you either wanted to stop using drugs or die; if you are having thoughts of suicide, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or the Contact Hotline (315-251-0600); these confidential hotlines are available 24/7 for emotional support.

There are many different types of treatment for substance use, and we have provided a list of resources under three different categories – Detoxification Programs, Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment, and Outpatient Substance Abuse Treatment. Feel free to pick and choose based on the services you are looking for.

(The email then included the phone numbers, addresses, hours of operation and fees for 10 treatment programs in the Syracuse area.)

It took a lot of strength for you to contact us and we encourage you to continue doing so. You are more than welcome to reply to this email or reach out to us via phone at 2-1-1 or 1-844-245-1922 if you have any questions or are in need of support.

Take care John, we will be thinking of you,
211 CNY
You may not know that the 211CNY information and referral line is staffed by the same dedicated group of people at Contact Community Services who staff the 24-hour Contact Hotline. So when this inquiry came in, our staff member knew exactly where to turn for the information that would help John.

Call center volunteer

So whether you’re calling 211CNY for information on resources that are important to you, or whether you’re calling the Hotline because you’re going through a hard time, your call will be answered by a caring, trained and committed staff member or volunteer at the call center at Contact Community Services. We’ve been providing phone services in Central New York since 1971, and while the methods of communication keep changing, the need for a compassionate ear is never out of date.

Learn more about 211CNY.

Learn more about the Contact Hotline.

‘You Might Be All That Person Has’
January 25, 2016
(permanent link)
Channel 9,

NewsChannel 9 television reporter Farah Jadran recently visited Contact Community Services in advance of our training for Hotline volunteers. Farah interviewed Kristine Knutson, Contact’s Program Manager for Volunteer Relations, and Hotline volunteer Kristin Losier about Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention services.

"You’re doing good for other people," Losier said. "You’re showing love to other people. You’re showing genuine concern and kindness to other people. Sometimes, you might be all that person has."

Thank you to Farah and NewsChannel 9 for making people aware of Contact’s vital services. Watch the video for the full story, and read more about volunteering at Contact.

Kristin Losier
Kristin Losier, Contact Community Services Volunteer
Suicide Crisis Hotline Training

WAER Previews Volunteer Training
January 19, 2016
(permanent link)

WAER "You walk out and you get in your car and you drive home and you think, even if it was for two moments, I made somebody’s day a little better today. It makes you feel you did something useful for the day." —Contact Community Services Hotline volunteer Sue Navagh to WAER radio

As a preview to the January 22-24 Hotline volunteer training class, WAER News and Public Affairs Director Chris Bolt interviewed Sue and Kristine Knutson, Contact’s Volunteer Relations Program Manager, for a story that aired January 19. Listen to the full story and listen to additional interviews with Sue and Kristine on WAER’s website.

If you’re interested in becoming a Hotline volunteer, visit our volunteer page for information about the training class and frequently asked questions about volunteering with Contact.

A Primary Project Success Story
December 25, 2015
By Karen Cesarini, ESE Child Associate
(permanent link)

Considered to be shy and withdrawn, conversation was a struggle for "Jarred," a second-grade student at East Syracuse Elementary School. As I walked with him down the hallway, I was confident that the playroom was the perfect place for change to occur.

"Welcome to the playroom. This is a special room," I started. "In this room you can say and do most anything!" His eyes lit up, and he picked up familiar-looking toys and recalled the memories that related to them. My full attention encouraged more story-telling, and he looked happy sharing these memories. After our session ended, we walked back down the hallway to his classroom. Jarred asked, "So, I will get to come here again next week?" "Yes," I said. He quickly replied, "And, there is no work?" "No work," I said. He smiled and said, "Okay, I will see you next week."

Primary Project

Week after week my friend enjoyed exploring the room, talking about certain toys. "These toys bring back many memories for you. You enjoy telling me about them," I said. I noticed, however, that he never actually played with any of the toys; he would only speak about them. He seemed most comfortable with me as his audience. I could tell he enjoyed this one-on-one time, and I continued using the techniques of Primary Project while giving him my full attention.

It was during week seven that my friend picked up the foam sword. He grabbed it by the handle and held it firmly while staring down at it. It seemed he liked the feel and look of it in his hand. He glanced my way and put the sword down. "Oh," I said. "You are feeling uncomfortable with me watching you." "No," he said. "I just want to put this cape on." Once the cape was on, my friend picked the sword back up off the floor and stood with a smile looking at me. "I can tell you really like how you feel in that costume. You feel strong and confident." "Yes!" he said. Then he quickly took it off and put it away. Week seven . . . a milestone!

In the following weeks, my friend seemed drawn to the sword and cape. He even put on a superhero mask that went around his eyes. The costume complete, he looked in the mirror and seemed satisfied. It was then that the unthinkable happened. He picked up the other sword and handed it to me. I was holding in my excitement as best as I could. "Oh, you want to have a swordfight!" And that's exactly what we did. We were both smiling and laughing, while darting around the room. A connection had been made. He felt empowered. My friend could be who he wanted to be!

The East Syracuse Minoa Central School District featured Primary Project on its website.

What You Need to Know About Primary Project

What: Primary Project is a school-based prevention and early intervention program that addresses school adjustment difficulties through developmentally appropriate child-led play for students enrolled in kindergarten through third grade who have been identified as at-risk for school failure.

Who: The program identifies children through screening to determine early school adjustment difficulties that interfere with learning. Addressing these difficulties is important because a child’s arc toward high school graduation—or dropping out—starts in the earliest grades.

Where: Contact Community Services, Inc. partners with the East Syracuse-Minoa School District and the Syracuse City School District to provide Primary Project services.

Benefits: Reduces negative adjustment behaviors; improves children’s self-confidence, social skills, learning skills, and other school-related competencies; and allows school mental health professionals to focus on children who need more intensive interventions.

History: Started in 1957, Primary Project is the foundational program of Children’s Institute in Rochester, N.Y. For more information, please visit the Primary Project website.

Contact, Cicero Police Partner for Driver’s Education
December 15, 2015
(permanent link)

On Dec. 10, Cicero Police Officer Eric Flansberg visited Cicero-North Syracuse High School with a driving simulator and coordinated a tabling event with Contact Community Services' Student Assistance Program Counselor Susan Allington and Coordinator of Youth Engagement Rachel Tarr. Susan and Rachel were joined at the event by Toni’Lyn Brauchle, Youth Services Coordinator at the CanTeen local teen center that’s located next to the high school.

The simulator tests how reaction time is affected by drugs, alcohol or distractions such as texting and passengers. When a student is "pulled over" or "arrested" in the video, the simulator also provides different scenarios on what it would be like to go to court, and how a DWI conviction would impact a job interview and other areas of their life. In addition to ranking the students based on their performances, Officer Flansberg answered questions and provided honest, important answers for the C-NS students.

Driving simulator at CNS

Thank you to Officer Flansberg for teaming with Contact to provide what could be life-saving information to the C-NS students.

All Danforth Students Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance
December 7, 2015
(permanent link)

On Thursday, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner and other concerned Syracuse residents joined students and staff at Danforth Middle School in Syracuse for the "Safe Streets for Schools" Peace Parade to unite against the violence in the community. Contact Community Services has four Youth Development Services Specialists at Danforth who participated in the day’s activities: Christina Digirolamo, E.J. Maeweather, Jesse Rodriguez and Aduke Watts-Branch.

Mayor Miner, members of O.G.’s Against Violence and NewsChannel 9 anchor Jennifer Sanders were the special guests who talked to the students about taking a stand against violence in the wake of the recent shooting spree with six shootings in three days in the area of the school.

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner with members of the O.G.’s Against Violence community group

"There are lots of people in this city and this world who stand with you to say let’s put peace over violence and today, as the song says, let it begin with me," Mayor Miner told the eighth-grade students.

Despite the rain, the students marched around the school with their signs to pay respect to everyone affected by the recent tragedies and to seek support of community members to spread the word and bring back safe streets for Danforth and all schools. The parade showed that the community can band together to show students that their safety and future is the community’s top priority.

Watch Mayor Miner’s address to the students
View at YouTube

Contact’s Pat Leone Featured on UW Update
November 30, 2015
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services’ Executive Director Pat Leone appears in the most recent United Way of Central New York Community Update to discuss how the United Way supports Contact’s variety of services. To watch the update, please visit the United Way of CNY website and click on the Nov. 25 Community Update (you’ll find Pat at the 2:15 mark of the video!).

Executive Director Pat Leone
View the United Way Community Update video (2:15 mark)

TI Student: I’m Not the Only One Who Goes Through This Stuff
November 23, 2015
(permanent link)

In early November, students from Fowler, Institute of Technology at Central, and Nottingham high schools in Syracuse attended the 2015 Heart of New York Teen Institute leadership conference in Penn Yan, where they enjoyed a long weekend of fun, learning and connection with other Teen Institute students from around Central New York. The conference empowers teens with the knowledge, skills and confidence to educate and lead peers to reduce the frequency of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors.

Teen Institute
Teen Institute students at leadership conference in early November.

Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program Counselors are in those schools, and the counselors work closely with the Teen Institute students on advocating positive change within their schools and communities. One of our counselors asked a Teen Institute students to share her thoughts about the leadership conference, and here’s what she wrote:

"Going to the Heart of NY Teen Institute (TI) was one of the most fun and engaging events I’ve gone to in years. I was actually pretty nervous on what it was going to be like. I didn't know what to expect but as soon as we pulled up in front of the camp, there were a bunch of friendly faces doing a very odd dance and welcome song. At that point I was a little relieved."

"As time went on I had a chance to sort of step out of my comfort zone and meet new people. That was probably my favorite part besides the incredible activities and workshops we did. Aside from that, it made me realize a few things. One specific thing was that I’ve blinded myself from the things that are really going on at home. I’ve kind of faked my way to happiness. Alcohol has ruined my family for a very long time. Teen Institute took off that blindfold and really made me see it. Not only did my peers in TI open my eyes to that, they’ve showed me that I’m not the only one who goes through this stuff."

"They showed me that there are healthy ways to deal with it because just ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. And by the end of Teen Institute I had one of those friendly smiles and was doing a couple of those weird dances myself! TI has inspired me to want to become a friendly face next year and be one of many who help students like me next year."

Contact is grateful to this student for sharing her story and for all of the Teen Institute students who assist our counselors in spreading the message about healthy behaviors. Learn more about Contact’s Student Assistance Program.

Contact impacts Syracuse Family In Many Different Ways
November 17, 2015
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services recently attended the annual Wellness Fair at P.E.A.C.E., Inc., in Syracuse, where we had the great pleasure of meeting Toni Vadala, a Family Worker for P.E.A.C.E., Inc. As we were sharing stories about our agencies, Toni explained how Contact has been a positive influence in her family’s life.

So we asked Toni, who lives in Syracuse, to tell us about her experiences with Contact, and this is what she wrote:

"My sons have both been in Contact for the last couple of years and have thoroughly enjoyed it. My younger son was able to participate in the summer program two years ago and attend Sea Breeze. He had the time of his life!

Currently, my younger son is also receiving in-school services (tutoring) to help him integrate back into school after a long illness (last year he was out for most of the second semester due to mono and other illnesses). He loves the support and we can see it in his grades.

The Vadala family
Toni Vadala with her sons Anthony (left) and Christopher (photo courtesy of Toni Vadala).

As a family worker for Head Start through P.E.A.C.E., Inc., we look for resources to share with our families frequently. When we heard about 211 CNY we were very happy. I have found that I have been able to use it to help some of my assigned families with housing and shelter needs, as well as referrals for formula and diapers.

This is an amazing service and an easy-to-use website that will keep me coming back often as well as sharing it with anyone who needs help with the myriad of services that you can connect people to, such as mental health, education, transportation, housing, food, health, and so much more. It's what I call one-stop shopping!"

Thank you, Toni, for your kind words and for spreading the message about Contact’s services. Visit our programs page to learn more about our school services, 211 CNY, the crisis hotline and all we do at Contact.

Fun, Learning and Connection at 2015 Teen Institute
November 13, 2015
(permanent link)

About 25 students from Fowler, Institute of Technology at Central, and Nottingham high schools in Syracuse attended the 2015 Heart of New York Teen Institute leadership conference over the weekend of Nov. 6 at Long Point Camp in Penn Yan. The students learned about living healthy lives, free of alcohol and drugs, while having—as one student called it—"one of the best times of my life!"

Teen Institute students from Syracuse
Teen Institute students from Syracuse

The Syracuse City School District students joined 90 other students from throughout Central New York for a long weekend of fun, learning and connection. The Teen Institute strives to empower teens with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lead an alcohol–, tobacco– and drug-free life; develop and strengthen leadership skills; educate and lead peers to reduce the frequency of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors; advocate for positive change within their schools and communities; and promote healthy decision-making.

Group hug at the Teen Institute
Group hug at the Teen Institute

Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program Counselors Cindy Squillace (ITC) and Kim Allen (Nottingham) joined the students for the weekend, while Fowler Counselors Kristen Stanton and Odetta Addo Odartey provided support and planning. The students who attended the Teen Institute will assist Contact’s Student Assistance Program counselors with alcohol and drug prevention messaging throughout the remainder of the school year.

Learn more about Contact’s Student Assistance Program.

Contact’s Michele Anson Talks 211CNY with Laura Hand
November 9, 2015
(permanent link)

Michele Anson, Program Manager for 211CNY and Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services, recently appeared on Laura Hand’s morning show on NBC3-TV to discuss the benefits of 211CNY, which provides free 24-hour health and human services information to residents in Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Michele and Laura Hand
Laura Hand (left) and Michele Anson

To access 211CNY information, simply call 211 or visit the 211CNY website. There’s also a separate website with information for those with developmental disabilities.

Watch Michele’s interview with Laura at YouTube

--> OASAS Launches Talk2Prevent Website
October 19, 2015
(permanent link)

 Talk2Prevent Website Earlier this year, the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS) introduced Talk2Prevent.NY.GOV, a new website that gives parents tools to talk to their children about the risks of underage drinking. Visit Talk2Prevent at for important information, advice and local services.

In addition to Talk2Prevent, OASAS has two other important public awareness campaigns: the Dangers of Synthetic Drugs and Combat Heroin, visit

Syracuse City School District Highlights PAX Game
October 19, 2015
(permanent link)

The PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG) is starting to catch on throughout the Syracuse City School District.

Contact Community Services has introduced PAX GBG to all grades at Meachem Elementary School and Porter Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District, plus kindergarten and third grade at Woodland Elementary School in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District.

Karin Davenport, Communications Specialist in the Syracuse City School District’s Office of Communications, recently visited Meachem to observe students and teachers playing the game and wrote about it on the district’s website. Read Karin's story on PAX GBG.

Mr. Porter Pax game

The PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG) is an elementary school intervention that targets classroom behavior. PAX GBG integrates some of the best scientifically proven strategies for classrooms and teaches students to "flip on" their internal focus switch to self-regulate between learning and fun. Students learn how to delay gratification toward a bigger goal, reducing problem behavior and teacher and student stress. Learn more about PAX GBG.

Dr. Jason Fruth, one of the nation’s leading child intervention specialists, visited Contact Community Services in late September and introduced PAX GBG to local school teachers, counselors and administrators. Watch a video of Dr. Fruth explaining how playing PAX GBG is like practicing free throws.

Contact’s Crisis Intervention Team Discuss Suicide Prevention
October 15, 2015
(permanent link)
United Way Community Update Oct. 1, 2015

Two members of Contact Community Services’ Crisis Intervention team recently appeared in videos to discuss suicide prevention.

Cheryl Giarrusso, Contact’s Director of Crisis Intervention Services, was interviewed by CNY Central reporter Sarahbeth Ackerman for a follow-up story on two recent suicides in Central New York. Cheryl said it’s vital that people start talking about suicide because more people die by suicide than homicide, and nearly all suicides are preventable if loved ones and friends recognize the warning signs and are willing to intervene.

Watch Cheryl on CNY Central, YouTube

Michele Anson, Program Manager for 211CNY and Crisis Intervention Services, appeared on a recent United Way Community Update to talk about National Suicide Prevention Month in September the crisis services provided by Contact to the Central New York community.

Michele Anson
Watch Michele on Community Update, YouTube

Jeanne Elmer Receives Exceptional Contribution to Suicide Prevention Award!
October 7, 2015
(permanent link)

Jeanne Elmer, the Director of the Student Assistance Program at Contact Community Services, was recently honored by the Suicide Prevention Center of New York (SPCNY) with a 2015 Exceptional Contribution to Suicide Prevention Award.

SPCNY presents the award to professionals who exemplify its core philosophy that "suicide is everybody’s business." Jeanne and other award winners were recognized at a dinner Sept. 16 at the Century House in Latham.

Jeanne Elmer and award
Jeanne Elmer and SPCNY Award

"We value your contributions to a public health problem that can only be overcome by people like you working diligently to save lives and offer hope," said Garra Lloyd-Lester, Youth Suicide Prevention Specialist at SPCNY. "Your efforts and dedication should not, and will not, go unnoticed."

For more information and photos from the awards dinner, please visit the SPCNY website.

Read more about Jeanne’s work with Contact's Student Assistance Program.

Renowned Child Intervention Specialist
Teaches PAX at Contact Office
September 28, 2015
(permanent link)

Dr. Jason Fruth, one of the nation’s leading child intervention specialists, introduced the PAX Good Behavior Game to local school teachers, counselors and administrators at a recent training session at Contact Community Services.

The PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG) is an elementary school intervention that targets classroom behavior. PAX GBG integrates some of the best scientifically proven strategies for classrooms and teaches students to "flip on" their internal focus switch to self-regulate between learning and fun. Students learn how to delay gratification toward a bigger goal, reducing problem behavior and teacher and student stress.

Watch Dr. Fruth describe how the PAX GBG is like practicing free throws and his "ulterior motive" for teaching the game.

Dr. Jason Fruth

Contact Community Services has introduced PAX GBG to all grades at Meachem Elementary School and Porter Elementary Schools in the Syracuse City School District, and will soon introduce it in kindergarten and third grade at Woodland Elementary School in the East Syracuse-Minoa School District.

Meachem Principal Melissa Evans said she decided to incorporate the PAX Good Behavior Game school-wide in 2014-15 after her office received a disconcerting number of referrals for disruptive behavior in 2013-14.

"Last year was the very first year we had everyone all in, and what a change it was," Melissa said. "The children know what’s expected of them, we’re all on the same page, and it truly does help kids internalize and self-regulate and become more engaged."

"PAX gives students a focus," said Meachem second-grade teacher Kristen Duffy. " They can do these special things along with the rest of my class if they can remain PAXed—peaceful, productive and happy—while I am teaching. Then we all win!"

Read more — about Dr. Jason Fruth

Contact Director Interviewed
About Psychiatrist Shortage
September 24, 2015
(permanent link)
Channel 9 News

Cheryl Giarrusso, the Director of Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services, appeared on NewsChannel 9’s Health Alert recently to discuss how the nationwide psychiatrist shortage is impacting residents in Central New York.

Cheryl Giarrusso, Shortage of psychiatrist

To watch reporter Daryl Kirkland-Morgan’s story, please visit NewsChannel 9’s website. To learn more about the free and confidential Crisis Intervention Services that are available to you and your loved ones, please visit our Crisis and Suicide Prevention page.

Out of the Darkness
Community Walk Oct. 10
September 16, 2015
(permanent link)

You can help bring suicide "Out of the Darkness" by participating in the 10th annual Liverpool/Syracuse "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The walk will show support for the families and friends of the more than 38,000 Americans who die by suicide each year, and the 20 million people nationwide who suffer from depression. The event also raises money for suicide prevention research and educational programs, helps erase the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes, and encourages those who are suffering from mental illness to seek treatment.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) hosts the "Out of the Darkness Community Walks," which this year will feature about 200,000 people walking in 350 cities across the country.

Businesses, organizations and groups are encouraged to form teams to participate in the walk. Contact Community Services, Inc., has formed a team and you are welcome to join our team for the Oct. 10 event! To register as a walker, join a team or offer a donation, please visit the Out of the Darkness Walks website and click "Register Today."

World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial
Debra Graham (right), Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, reads a poem at the World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial at Long Branch Park. In the center is Becky Varik, a Resource Specialist for 211CNY and Crisis Intervention Services at Contact Community Services.

World Suicide Prevention Day Candle Lighting Memorial

For more information about the Liverpool walk, please contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at .

On World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, Contact Community Services and the Central New York Chapter of the AFSP partnered for the fourth annual Candle Lighting Memorial at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The event remembered loved ones who have died by suicide, supported survivors and their loved ones, and raised awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues. The memorial included the reading of poems and lighting of candles, and moments of silence for those we have lost to suicide.

Read more — of this article

Candle Lighting Memorial Sept. 10
September 2, 2015
(permanent link)

World Suicde Day Sept 10 According to the World Health Organization, there’s one death by suicide every 40 seconds. That’s about 800,000 deaths by suicide each year—more than homicide and war combined.

To remember loved ones who have died by suicide, support survivors and their loved ones, and bring awareness to the community about suicide prevention, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Central New York Chapter will host its fourth annual Candle Lighting Memorial from 5:45 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.

The Candle Lighting Memorial is open to those who have lost a loved one to suicide; it is not open to the general public.

Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, and the Candle Lighting Memorial will help raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues. For the second consecutive year, Contact Community Services is partnering with the AFSP CNY Chapter for the event. Contact provides numerous crisis and suicide prevention services in Central New York, including the local hotline, Crisis Chat for online counseling, and mental health support services.

At 8 p.m. Sept. 10, people from around the world will light candles near a window in memory of those lost to suicide. For more information about World Suicide Prevention Day, vist

How the Community Can Get Involved

  • In order to provide 24-hour service every day of the year, Contact Community Services’ Hotline relies on volunteers who are trained in active listening and suicide and crisis intervention. The next three-day training for volunteers will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 11-13 at Contact Community Services in East Syracuse. Click here for more information about volunteering and the training.

  • The 10th annual Liverpool/Syracuse "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, at Long Branch Park. The walk raises money for critical suicide research and prevention programs in Central New York. To register for the walk, go to For more information, contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at

  • For free and confidential 24-hour suicide prevention and counseling, residents can call Contact Community Services’ Hotline at 315-251-0600 in Onondaga County and 877-400-8740 in Cayuga County. The 24-hour online Crisis Chat service is also available by clicking the "Crisis Chat" box on the right-hand side of this website’s home page.

2015 Volunteer of the Year
July 16, 2015
(permanent link)

Someone needs to talk, and the phone rings. Fortunately, there are people like Mary Ann Wilson on the other end of the line.

Mary Ann, of Pompey, has been a volunteer with Contact Community Services’ hotline since 2010 and a Peer Trainer since 2012. In June, she was recognized at Contact’s annual "VIP Jamboree" as the 2015 Volunteer of the Year for the way she utilizes her compassion and superior active listening skills to navigate through each life-defining call.

"You’re giving yourself up for someone else just by that listening; me and I is not in the conversation," Mary Ann said. "So you really truly feel like you're giving because you're not thinking of yourself during these phone calls."

Volunteer of the Year Mary Ann Wilson
Contact Community Services’ 2015 Volunteer of the Year Mary Ann Wilson (right) at the VIP Jamboree with fellow hotline volunteer Gail Sterling, who recently celebrated her 40th anniversary with Contact.

A mother of four grown children (Anna, Michael, Christopher and Matthew), Mary Ann recently completed her 20th year as a Teaching Assistant at Fabius-Pompey Elementary School.

Mary Ann recently visited with Contact Public Relations and Communications Coordinator Matt Michael to discuss why she became a volunteer, the benefits of active listening, and the rewards she gets from being a hotline volunteer.

Matt: What made you want to become a hotline volunteer?

Mary Ann: I was widowed and looking for something else to do, especially on weekends, and I happened to see an ad in the paper for volunteers for Contact. I really didn’t know a lot about it, so I decided to go to the first orientation and it sounded interesting. It was very fulfilling to learn this active listening, and the model that we used was good for anything in your life to communicate with people. It benefitted me with family, friends, co-workers, and children. So it not only fulfilled a need for myself, it fulfilled a need for others so it was a perfect combination.
Mary Ann Wilson

Read more — of the interview with Mary Ann Wilson and Other Jamboree Honorees

HSGI Boosts Graduation Rate
July 6, 2015
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services is proud to announce that 81 percent of its 2014-15 High School Graduation Initiative (HSGI) students graduated this June, and that percentage will increase to about 85 percent when the remaining graduates receive their diplomas in August.

For the past three years, Contact and the Syracuse City School District have partnered to implement the HSGI, which provides academic and support services to students who are chronically absent, have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out, or are re-entering school. The program included students from Corcoran, Fowler, Henninger and Nottingham high schools.

"We had proposed 75 percent by August, but through the great efforts of our HSGI specialists in each school we will bring the year to a close in August with 85 percent of the HSGI students graduating," said A. Najah Salaam Jennings-Bey, HSGI Program Coordinator from Contact Community Services. "And we’re also pleased to report that more than 20 of these students have been accepted at area colleges and plan to attend."

HSGI Boosts Graduation Rate

Contact’s HSGI Specialists include Alejandra Martinez (Fowler Twilight), Rashida Chambers (Corcoran and Nottingham), Joe Akins (Henninger and Nottingham), and Frank Smith (Fowler). They serve as mentors and counselors as they discover and address the core issues that prevent the students from attending school.

The specialists help the students address obstacles to graduation, which often include low academic performance, high risk behaviors, and family situations. The staff supports students to make positive personal changes; helps them navigate systems such as school, family court and probation; and provides support, resources, and continuity. They also connect with parents regularly and make home visits.

"One of the things (Fowler High School) did with their attendance team and the High School Graduation Initiative, they went after those students who dropped out, recovered them, brought them back in and really worked on having those students recover their credits and pass their regents exam," Brian Nolan, Executive Director of High Schools for the Syracuse City School District, told The Post-Standard/ in September 2014.

The following is a list of the 59 June/August graduates who were mentored in the 2014-15 HSGI program (with the colleges that have accepted them, if applicable) as of July 6:

Read more »

2015 Stanley Scholarship Award
July 2, 2015
(permanent link)

As a 10th-grade student at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central, Nasier McIntyre was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

"Hanging out with so-called friends, all we were doing was digging a deeper hole," said Nasier, who was born and raised in Syracuse. "What that means is we were fooling around and not doing well in our classes."

Unfortunately, it’s a common story. Nasier’s father has been in and out of his life with little contact, and Nasier and his younger brother were raised by a single mother in a neighborhood where just walking around the block is a reason for a young man to fear for his life.

But then Nasier met Cindy Squillace, a counselor with Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program, and his life started to turn around. Two years after being on a path to nowhere, Nasier graduated from ITC and will become the first member of his family to attend college. Nasier will attend Onondaga Community College with the idea of becoming a social worker or counselor so he can "help people get to where they need to be and give them understanding and comfort."

To recognize Nasier’s hard work and dedication to reaching his full potential, Contact Community Services recently presented Nasier with the $1,000 Pauline Stanley Scholarship Award. The scholarship is given annually to a high school senior of color who has demonstrated a commitment to education and Contact Community Services through his or her active participation in one of Contact's teen programs and who plans to continue his or her education at an institution of higher learning.

Nasier McIntyre (right) and his brother, Juelz, and George Stanley, Pauline Stanley’s son who oversees the Pauline Stanley Scholarship Award. (Photo courtesy of Cindy Squillace)

Read more »

2015 Youth Peace Award
June 4, 2015
(permanent link)

Congratulations to Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central (ITC) junior Jaydia Perry, one of four recipients of the 2015 Youth Peace Award presented by the Nuclear Free World Committee of the Syracuse Peace Council. The award recognizes young people who have shown a commitment to peace, justice and protecting the environment.

"Jaydia is one of those students who does not hesitate to interrupt bullying when she encounters it and to stand up for the rights of all humans to have a good, decent life!" says Cindy Squillace, Contact Student Assistance Program counselor at ITC. Cindy should know because Jaydia participates in several school groups that Cindy facilitates.

Jaydia was honored for her work as co-president of the ITC Gay-Straight Alliance, member of the Teen Institute leadership team, Girl Ambassador from the Matilda Joselyn Gage Foundation and Leader for the SEEDS of Peace program.

SIDS support group talks about grief, love and resilience
June 2, 2015
WCNY Cycle of Health show, minute 8:00
(permanent link)

SIDS support group talks Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) takes the lives of thousands of babies every year and leaves parents and families to grieve for a lifetime. WCNY’s May 28 Cycle of Health show features women from a group facilitated by Clemencia Molina, Regional Coordinator of the CNY Sudden Infant and Children Death Resource Center (SICDRC). The SICDRC , part of Contact Community Services, provides bereavement support and risk reduction education. Watch the SIDS segment at, minute 8:00.

North country connects with 211
April 14, 2015
(permanent link)

Since 2000, residents of Georgia and Connecticut have been using 211, the nationally authorized phone number that connects callers to nonprofit and government services offered in their community.

Since 2007, residents of Plattsburgh and communities in all but 10 New York State counties have enjoyed the same service.

And finally in February, 211 came to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

Read more »

More people call for help, info with addition of 211 hotline
April 9, 2015
(permanent link)

A shorter, more easy to remember number has yielded a higher amount of calls from people seeking help in Central New York, according to 211 CNY.

211 CNY officially launched statewide on February 11. The hotline replaced Onondaga County’s Helpline, but it performs the same function and serves more counties that include Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence.

The five counties were some of the last in New York state to be served by the hotline, which serves over 90 percent of the United States

The local hotline, which operates out of Onondaga County, helps callers find a range of social services that include shelter, mental health services and food pantries in their area.

Read more »

United Way Community Update on 211 and Contact Community Services
February 19, 2015
(permanent link)

View at YouTube

The north country welcomed 211CNY as a valuable phone and web resource for people seeking human services information. Watch news coverage from WWNY TV 7 in Watertown.

Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center becomes part of Contact
February 14, 2015
(permanent link)

We are proud to announce that the Sudden Infant and Child Death (SICD) Resource Center in Central New York is now part of Contact. We also welcome its regional coordinator Clemencia Molina. The center is part of a statewide program that provides support for bereaved families and educational and public awareness programs about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other causes of infant and child mortality.
Read more about SICD Center

211 Phone Service for Central and Northern New York Officially Launches on 2-11!
February 8, 2015
Press Release (PDF)
Watertown Daily Times article (PDF)
(permanent link)

Syracuse NY – United Way of Central New York, United Way of Greater Oswego County, United Way of Northern New York and Contact Community Services are pleased to announce a new 211 informational phone service for five Upstate NY counties. Contact Community Services, Inc. will act as the designated 211CNY call center, which will serve St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego and Onondaga counties. Our launch is just in time for 211 Day, on February 11, which is 211!

The 211CNY center will provide 24-hour free and confidential information about health and human services resources available in a caller’s community. Residents in the covered area can seek assistance or information on a wide range of issues, including basic needs, substance abuse, family services, mental health, legal aid, and holiday assistance.

"211 has been an important service in other regions across New York State as well as the rest of the country, so we are pleased that we will now be able to offer this service to Central and Northern New York" said Frank Lazarski, President of United Way of Central New York.

211 Phone Service for Central and Northern New York Officially Launches on  2-11

Contact Community Services’ Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso (front) talks with (from left) New York State Senator John DeFrancisco, Assemblyman Al Stirpe, Senator Dave Valesky, and Contact Executive Director Pat Leone, at the opening of the 211CNY call center at Contact.

Read more »

News Archive

Phone: 315-251-1400  
Fax: 315-251-2218

6311 Court Street Road
East Syracuse, NY 13057

Vehicle donation call 877-999-8322

All rights reserved
Copyright 2005-2016

Website Development in Syracuse

Contact Us & Location
List of Programs
Schedule for Training
News & Events
Web Resources
Staff & Board of Directors
About & Affiliations
Financial Information
Brochures & Posters
Join Mailing List

Contact Hotline
Crisis Chat
SICD Resource Center
Teen Talk
Contact hotline
Crisis Chat FAQs
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Suicide Prevention Information
211CNY (formerly mental health/helpline)
Suicide Prevention Training
Talk Saves Lives
QPR Gatekeeper Training
ASIST Applied Suicide Intervention
Mental Health First Aid

Children 1st
Anger Management
Suicide Prevention Training
Mental Health First Aid
Hotline Volunteer Training
Grant After School Application
Primary Project
Guided Prevention Services (GPS)
Contact Youth Development
Student Assistance Program
High School Graduation Initiative
Teen Talk

GPS Training
PAX Good Behavior Game
Mental Health First Aid
Positive Behavior Strategies
Child Specific Interventions
SEL Social Emotional Learning

United Way