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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
Contact Community Services


News & Events
2015 Stanley Scholarship Award
July 2, 2015

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)


The scholarship is funded by the estate and family of Pauline Stanley, who was a hotline volunteer for Contact Community Services for 42 years before passing away in June 2014. Contact’s crisis intervention services now occupy a wing of its East Syracuse building that has been named the Pauline Stanley Call Center.

Cindy first met Nasier when he was in 10th grade and he and his friends knocked on her Student Assistance door and asked if they could have a lunch group in her room. Eventually, Nasier started making individual appointments and he joined the Prevention Education group and decided to stop hanging around with friends who were getting into trouble.

At Cindy’s urging, Nasier attended the Teen Institute, a four-day retreat to help teens learn leadership skills and how to maintain a substance-free lifestyle. He emerged as a student leader, helping with the monthly Awareness Activities to prevent bullying and raise awareness about drug and alcohol issues.

This spring, Nasier was selected from 40 candidates to be one of 15 students who became volunteer staff members at the Teen Institute.

"I watched him grow and change, refining his goals, reshaping who he was before my eyes," Cindy said. "His mother sees his new patience with his younger brother, maturity with priorities, helping at home, and his ability to hold a part-time job for the past 10 months."

Nasier was also a member of the Gay/Straight Alliance at ITC through the Student Assistance Program, and was involved in the Sled for Red Fundraiser for ACR Health and Seeds of Peace Club. He credits Cindy for being "a breath of fresh air to me" and giving him the incentive to get involved.

"She saw something different about me and helped me to get involved," he said. "At first I was a little iffy about joining, but I decided to give them a try and they were amazing, some of the best experiences that happened to me in high school."

Nasier was mocked by his old group of friends for getting involved in these programs. But with Cindy’s help he stayed the course, and recently started interviewing men in the social work field to learn more about their jobs.

"I have decided I would like to do a similar job to Ms. Cindy, helping people," Nasier said. "Remember, everyone needs someone at some point in their life!"

To learn more about Contact Community Services’ Student Assistance Program, please click here.



2015 Youth Peace Award
June 4, 2015

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

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 wcny.org, minute 8:00.



North country connects with 211
April 14, 2015
NNY BUSINESS

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.

This has been a 15-year vision of the United Way of New York State, which has been working with state and local governments to support and finance the system. And wherever 211 exists, the local citizenry can’t imagine living without it.

Everyone is familiar with 911, the number you call in an emergency. 211 is for information and resources. Are you new in town and not sure where food pantries or youth sports are located? Wondering if there is free tax preparation service for senior citizens? Have some time on your hands and would like to be a volunteer? The answers to all those questions can be found through 211.

Right now, north country nonprofits are submitting information to the 211CNY call center in Syracuse, which handles all calls made from our three Northern New York counties and Oswego and Onondaga counties.

Some of the benefits of 211 are apparent and others will eventually be revealed.

State government leaders like 211 because it allows them to refer most "constituent services" calls to 211.

Staffers operating 911 like it because it cuts down on the number of non-emergency calls they receive for information on food pantries and other services.

Fort Drum likes 211 because there is no way the post can give soldiers and their families in Gouverneur, Lowville, Adams, etc., information about what is available in every community.

And civil defense likes it because 211 can quickly be turned into the clearing house for all information during a disaster. The service was the key conduit for information during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the massive snowstorm that hit the Buffalo area last November.

Additional funding was added to the state budget last year to bring 211 to our three counties, but continued state funding will be an annual concern for Sens. Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, and Assemblymembers Ken Blankenbush and Addie Russell.

Right now, our three counties do not pay anything for the system to be here, but that is understandable. Why would any county government financially support 211 when there is no call volume data to make a judgment?

But the numbers are now coming in. 211CNY averaged 20 calls a week from our three counties the first three weeks after system availability was announced Feb. 11. As those numbers continue to rise, the United Way believes state and county leaders will see the value in ensuring 211 is here to stay.

Meanwhile, we invite you to review the 211 website at 211cny.com and see for yourself what the potential is for a one-stop shop of information and referral services for the north country.



More people call for help, info with addition of 211 hotline
April 9, 2015
Syracuse.com



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.

In July 2000, the Federal Communications Commission designated the 211 dialing code for community information and referral services. The number was meant to be easily remembered and widely recognized.

Cheryl Giarusso, director of Contact Community Services, has noticed an increase in the number of calls received since 211 CNY launched from previous years in which it operated as Helpline.

"In 2013, we were at 800 calls in March. [In] 2014, we were at 1,200. This last month, we’re at 1,550," she said.

Ann Hettinger has been a Helpline and now 211 CNY employee for three years. She said that the amount of calls can vary depending on shifts and that the subject can vary as well.

"There’s so many different requests they have. They’re basically looking for information about various kinds of human services," she said. "They need information about housing, local housing or food pantries."

Hettinger is one of the many 211 employees and volunteers who undergo 45 hours of active listening training, Giarusso said. They also have an additional eight to 10 hours of database instruction and suicide prevention training.

Giarusso said the intensive training has prepared 211 employees to deal with every type of call.

"[Callers] can expect to have a friendly voice on the other end of the line who is well-versed in searching for information and referral and who will actively listen to the caller's concerns," she said.

Those who don’t want to speak with someone for services can find the same resources on 211 CNY’s website.

211 CNY is funded through multiple partnerships that include the United Ways of Onondaga and Oswego, Onondaga County Department of Social Services and New York State 211.



United Way Community Update on 211 and Contact Community Services
February 19, 2015


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

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



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

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.


The Federal Communications Commission set aside the 211 dialing code for community information and referral services in July 2000. It has been implemented across the United States and Canada.

"People who don’t know where to turn for assistance, or simply want information on a particular human service issue, can simply dial 211. We have provided information and referral on behalf of Onondaga County for many years, and we are excited to now be collaborating with United Way and our neighboring counties. Together we are creating and delivering an outstanding service," said Cheryl Giarrusso, Director of Crisis Intervention Services at Contact.

For people with internet access there is also a robust website of services for the five counties on the 211CNY website: 211cny.com .



Volunteer Training is January 23-25
January 8, 2015

Take our weekend training so that you can become part of the Contact Hotline. It is a great volunteer experience for you. Or if you are a student at an area college, you might be able to use your Hotline experience to fulfill your field placement or service learning requirements. Call our volunteer line and leave your name and number: 315-218-1943. Or email lbest@contactsyracuse.org.



Teen Talk Airing Myths about Alcohol
December 15, 2014

Have you heard the claim that a penny under your tongue can help you pass the breathalyzer test? Teen Talk takes on that claim and others, with its PSAs airing on 93Q this month. If you haven’t caught them yet on 93Q, listen here: Teen Talk Radio



Contact Community Services is on a mission to build a suicide-safer Community
November 25, 2014

Contact Community Services is on a mission to build a suicide-safer community. It can only happen with your help.

Our telephone, crisis chat and school counselors are trained to ask a very direct question, "Are you thinking about suicide?" Because we ask the question, the person can finally, openly talk about the secret he or she has been carrying. But our counselors can only respond to the people who reach out to us. Imagine if thousands of people in our community were trained as "gatekeepers," alert to suicide warning signs exhibited by friends, relatives, or co-workers...

Read more: how one woman helped a friend only hours after completing our one-hour suicide prevention workshop...



We’re getting 211
November 6, 2014

The 211 non-emergency referral service is coming to Central New York in early 2015. Contact will operate 211CNY for five counties through a state grant awarded to United Way of Central New York. Residents in (Onondaga, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties will be able to access information about health and human service resources by calling 211 or visiting the future 211CNY.org website.

The 211 system already serves 90 percent of the nation and 93 percent of New York residents. Only ten counties, including the five we will serve were the long holdouts in the state. The other five, however, are also due to begin service next year. Helpline is the current health and human services referral line for Onondaga County. Contact has operated this information and referral line for the county for many years.

The Federal Communications Commission set aside the 211 dialing code for community information and referral services in July 2000. The number was intended to be easy to remember and universally recognized.

It helps the elderly, the disabled, those who don’t speak English, people who are having a personal crisis, those with limited reading skills or new to the community to find information about health and human service organizations and agencies.




National Suicide Prevention Week Sept 8 – 14, 2014
Candle Lighting Memorial Sept 10

September 8, 2014

Please join us for a World Suicide Prevention Day candle-lighting ceremony on Wednesday, September 10. Participants will meet at 5:45 p.m. at the West Shore Trail parking lot of Long Branch Park in Liverpool. See our Facebook event page for details. If you cannot attend our candle lighting memorial, you can still participate at home. At 8:00 pm, people from around the world will be lighting a candle near a window in memory of those lost to suicide. 40th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week

Laurie Best, Contact’s program coordinator for volunteer services, spoke to WAER about suicide prevention and World Suicide Prevention Day.

"Laurie Best with Contact Community Services says talking about suicide with someone is having suicidal thoughts can actually help the person realize there are other solutions to their crisis. Perhaps the most recent and high-profile suicide was comedian and actor Robin Williams. Best says his death did more than just raise awareness about suicide and mental illness."

"It also provides opportunities for us to be able to provide more training for individuals in the community whether they are in the mental health field, the medical field, or the general population at large...that if you have these kinds of skills to help an individual who might be at risk for suicide, then you can potentially help to save a person’s life."



High School Graduation Initiative and SAP Help Corcoran Improve
September 8, 2014

New York State has removed Corcoran High School from its list of persistently low-achieving schools. Math and English test scores have improved, the graduation rate has increased, and the dropout rate has decreased. Contact Community Services is proud to have played a role through our Student Assistance Program and the High School Graduation Initiative.
cnycentral.com article
article (PDF)



YouTube.com


In 2010, New York State added Syracuse’s Corcoran high school to the list of persistently lowest achieving schools in the state. Corcoran had three years of low english and math test scores and a graduation rate of 57%. Corcoran principal Jennifer King-Reese said being added to the list was a tough day for many parents and teachers.

"People were a little downtrodden, we picked ourselves back up and we had to undergo this thorough redesign process," said King-Reese.

New York State provided $5 million to Corcoran to help turn things around. Teachers and staff put in a data driven plan for student assessment. By testing students on specific english and math test schools all through the year, teachers could see exactly where individual students were struggling. Teachers could then focus on those students specific needs during the school year instead of waiting for end of the year standardized results.

"Teachers would be able to find out that information and go back and re-teach those concepts to students individually or in a whole group," said King-Reese.

Over the past three years, Corcoran’s english and math test scores improved. Graduation rates have been steadily gone up and Corcoran also cut the drop out rate from 24% to 16% in just one year. The executive director for high schools in the Syracuse City School District says Corcoran was successful in convincing many students to return.

"One of the things this school did was 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," said Brian Nolan.

This summer, the state removed Corcoran from the persistently low achieving schools list. King-Reese says the state’s recognition shows what dedicated teachers, staff, community members and students can accomplish.

"We definitely have a momentum and I’m so glad we were able to achieve success in this three year period but I also want to take us from where we are to achieve greater things as well," said King-Reese.



Contact’s Suicide-safer Community Initiative on United Way’s Community Update
August 14, 2014, United Way Community Update

View on YouTube

Contact’s director of crisis intervention services talks about our Suicide-safer Community Initiative on the United Way’s Community Update.



State Grant would Allow Contact to Operate 211 Service for Five Counties
August 6, 2014, syracuse.com

The United Way of Central New York has applied for a $150,000 state grant to operate a non-emergency referral service that’s just a three-digit phone call away, 211.

Ten counties, including Onondaga, are the lone hold outs on the 211 system that currently serves 93 percent of the New York’s residents and 90 percent of the nation.

What is 211?

The Federal Communications Commission set aside the 211 dialing code for community information and referral services in July 2000. The number was intended to be easy to remember and universally recognized.

It helps the elderly, the disabled, those who don’t speak English, people who are having a personal crisis, those with limited reading skills or folks new to the community to find information about health and human service organizations and agencies.



The number currently reaches about 270 million people, or about 90 percent of the nation’s population, just not anyone in Onondaga County.

United Ways across the country have spearheaded the charge to create a nationwide 211 referral system, said Frank Lazarski, chief executive officer of the United Way of Central New York.

Onondaga County has long had Helpline to provide the same service as 211 operators. Former county executive Nick Pirro did not want to enter the 211 system until there was significant state money available to support it, Lazarski said. This year the state budget set aside funds to bring the remaining counties into the system, he said.

The United Way of Central New York applied for the state grant Tuesday that would allow Contact Community Services to operate the service in Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Those counties currently make up a large blank space in the 211 coverage map of New York.

The plan is to have the 211 service up and running in those counties by the end of the year, Lazarski said.

People sometimes call 9-1-1, which is a number set aside for summoning medical, fire or police help, to find non-emergency services, Lazarski said. It’s hoped that the 211 service will lower the number of non-emergency calls to 9-1-1, he said.

Contact has operated Helpline full time for Onondaga County since 2009 and is on track to handle 25,000 calls this year, said Cheryl Giarrusso, director of crisis intervention services for Contact.

Helpline provides people with help in finding basic needs, consumer services, health and medical support, housing, crime victim services, legal advocacy and more.

Onondaga and Oswego counties have already said they will pay towards the 211 service, Lazarski said, adding that he expects the other counties will pay as well.

The United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area is applying for 211 service for Herkimer, Madison and Oneida counties. Two other counties that don’t have the service, Delaware and Otsego counties, will join the 211 system already provided by Broome County, Lazarski said.

New York city uses a 3-1-1 number for its non-emergency calls.


See our news archive for more news.



Phone: 315-251-1400  
Fax: 315-251-2218
contact@contactsyracuse.org


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