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Customer Testimonials


Crystal’s Story

Three young siblings were recently uprooted from their home environment. It wasn’t just one thing that caused the displacement. During their most formative years, the twin five year olds and six year old were exposed to domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse and incarceration of a parent. Some might consider the siblings fortunate, not for what they endured but for what happened next. A single mother to a teenager son - their Great Aunt Crystal - opened her home to the children, ensuring they would stay together. In that moment, she became a Kinship Caregiver and the expanded household of five became a kinship family.

The siblings arrived at their new home with virtually nothing, a typical scenario for kinship families. Cayuga County Department of Social Services (DSS) connected Crystal to Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency’s (CSCAA) Kinship Care Program. In that first stressful week, CSCAA provided food for the entire household and supplied pajamas, blankets, backpacks, school supplies, and dufflebags stuffed with necessities and play items for each child. Program staff helped Crystal apply for “Child Only” Temporary Assistance through DSS, attain insurance for the children, explore custody options and access more spacious, affordable housing to accommodate the expanded household. Staff continues to support Crystal and her family as they adjust to their new kinship arrangement.


The Norris Family

All four of Laura Norris’s children have participated in Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency’s Early Childhood Program.  Laura states, “Having Head Start for our children gives them opportunities I probably could not have provided at home. They are in classes with their friends and cousins. They work on learning colors and letters, but they also are learning social skills.” 

Laura believes that home visiting through the Early Childhood Program helps her and her children have new experiences; she likes the support having a home visitor.  She participates in Parent Engagement Events and Socialization when she can, and likes interacting with other parents. 

Head Start encourages goal setting, and this is something Laura takes seriously.  Nine years ago when she first enrolled in the program, she had three big goals: get her driver’s license, earn her GED, and someday, buy a home. Three years ago, Laura passed her driver’s test and just this past winter she and her husband purchased their first home together.  She has yet to obtain her GED, but feels confident this goal will be achieved in the future.

Laura boasts about Head Start whenever she can. “I tell my family and friends to sign up for the program so their children can get to go to school too!”  She believes in the difference Head Start can make.


Mobile Food Pantry

I am a single mom that has been battling glaucoma; I have a son that now attends CCC. When I first started receiving the Mobile Food Pantry services, he was in high school. This program has helped us out tremendously.  They call to ask what types of food we eat and also if we need personal care items.  I like it when they put brownies or treats that are donated from Panera in my food box. The volunteers are helpful and are pleasant.  They have helped me put my food away. Sometimes I need help with other things and the volunteers help me find the phone number or suggest other resources to help. I thank God we have your Agency in our community.

~ Cathy Glover

I am a single disabled woman that is very thankful for the Mobile food pantry! It helps me a lot with my financial situation, Social Security and Disability fixed income. By getting this food, I can pay my bills and other doctor bills that are due and maintain safe housing. The volunteers that deliver are very pleasant and cheerful; they help me put the food away. Thank you Cayuga Seneca Community Action Agency.

~ Deborah Hurd

I am a retired and disabled Veteran. The Volunteers that deliver the food are very kind and helpful, the food is good and there is enough to get me and my wife by.  The interaction with the volunteers is welcomed and they always make us laugh and feel good.

~ Robert Brooks


Health Insurance Access

I had a married couple come to me for insurance for after he retired from his job of 42 years with 1 company. He had heard stories about the marketplace that weren’t reassuring to him so he was expecting the worst. He has a lot of heart health issues that are very costly so we had to make sure his prescriptions and surgeries were going to be covered. His wife is younger so we knew she was going to need coverage for more years then him as he would be going on Medicare in a few years. To see the look of relief come across his face is why I love my job as a Navigator! They will have the essential plan for 20 dollars a month- zero deductible. He just could not believe me! He was beyond happy and was going to tell his friends.

~ Renee Strazzere, CSCAA Health Care Navigator


Emergency Assistance

I had the pleasure of meeting a young mother from Puerto Rico who was displaced due to the hurricane. This family faced housing difficulties and had received a 3-day eviction notice due to late rent. Their housing at the time was sub standard so it was decided that it was time to move. They had some income due to their son’s SSI but finding work was proving hard because they spoke no English. They began working with Workforce Development to find a job and CSCAA worked to get them in better housing. Thanks to the Seneca County United Way, we were able to help pay the security deposit on a nice apartment that is subsidized so that the rent is affordable. Our agency also started pulling in other resources to help. We called Catholic Daughters, who helped with new clothing for the kids and household goods and furniture. A few good hearted community members donated beds to the family. The customer is now making great strides in learning English so that she can continue her college education.

~ Janice Griffin, Seneca Emergency Services Case Manager

“Carl” is a regular customer of our food pantry in Waterloo. He came to CSCAA in January because he had just started a new job and his car was in need of repair. I reached out to Mary Kinsky at Seneca County Workforce Development and was able to secure funding to repair Carl’s car. When asked to comment on his experience, Carl stated, “You were fast, efficient and awesome. If you guys were not so responsive to my car repair needs I wouldn’t have a job or housing!”

~ Laura Burghdorf, Seneca Programs Case Manager


Linda's Story

Linda first presented to our Emergency Services Department in need of food. Like many of our customers, she was faced with the impossible choice between purchasing groceries and paying other necessary bills. She could not pay her taxes and was in jeopardy of losing her home. Linda wasn’t comfortable having to ask for help. She had suffered a debilitating work injury and was now trying to make ends meet on a fixed income from Social Security Disability.

Linda explained her hardship to her Case Manager Christina who referred her to Emily, the Agency’s Disability Resource Coordinator. Emily provided information about the Social Security Administration’s Ticket to Work Program that allows individuals with disabilities to keep their benefits while they explore employment, receive vocational support and gain work experience. Linda decided to enroll in program, and things began to change.

She went through training to become a Home Health Aide and learned job modifications that would allow her to work with her disability. She is now working full-time and is in the process of transitioning off benefits. When asked what difference the Agency has made in her life, Linda replied, “This was the first Christmas in 8 years I was able to buy Christmas gifts for everyone in the family. I’m working, paying my bills. No more borrowing money!”


Chantell's Story

When Chantell’s oldest oldest son was born she left her job to stay home with him because of limited daycare options. She was on public assistance, which required her to work or volunteer to gain work experience. Chantell was sent to Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency to serve as a volunteer in a Head Start classroom.

"I worked as hard as I could and helped out as much as I could. The Agency saw my efforts as volunteer and I was able to apply and be hired for an open Aide position. This brought about much needed change to my family. I was able to buy diapers and even purchase my first vehicle. The Agency helped me to get back on my feet and grow as a person. I was even able to go back to school to be able to change my position from an Aide an Assistant.

Fast forward 17 years later, I have 4 children 3 of which have been through the Head Start program. I have a new vehicle to get my children around to where they need to be, and they are all thriving. This Agency has literally saved my life. Being a single parent and trying to work and maintain a household is always a challenge but being under the CSCAA umbrella so to speak has truly helped me...I have been able to utilize the car seat program, Christmas Elf, and other programs...This is truly an Agency for the Community, and I thank them for what they have done for me and my family every day."


Mr. "F"

“I went over to Mr F’s one day, saw him get up from where he sleeps, saw that he had no heat, no water and had his house closed off completely except for one room where he had a grill he used to cook with. The rest of the rooms were closed off so he could keep what little heat he had from the grill in the small room. There was about 6 inches of water in the basement and he was running a wood burner that was unsafe that he was using to try to heat his house. The bottom of his feet froze from him walking trying to carry water into the house. He has been without water for years. I felt like I needed to do something so I contacted CSCAA. My experience with them has been 1000% positive. They have helped us in every way they could. I started out with Marsha helping with the heat and water and ended with Chris who now delivers food to him. Little things like that have really done a lot for him. There is a 100% difference in Mr. F. He is now using his whole house. He is very happy right now and his house is much safer. Nobody in his life has ever done anything for him until now”.


"Janie's" Story

"My name is Janie and I reached out to CSCAA due to domestic abuse. I was a train wreck. I met with Crystal who listened with compassion and we discussed the help that was available to me. I left that day with hope.

It took me a few weeks to summon the courage to go to the woman’s shelter with my son. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. My son never knew that we were in a shelter - to him it was just a big house with a lot of new friends. During our stay there advocates made sure everyone had everything they needed even if it was just to listen. We felt safe.

We stayed there for 2.5 months and were fortunate enough to be offered a spot in the Transitional Housing Program. Without this program I honestly don’t know what we would have done. With Beth’s help we found an apartment and were able to start our new life. It hasn’t been without it’s challenges but I have felt so supported and have been given the help in a manner that has always been nonjudgemental and has allowed me to retain my dignity.

Beth has helped me fill out so much paperwork - from support services to court papers and helped me do a resume. Above all, she has helped me start believing in myself again. It has given me the time I’ve needed to start to heal. At least once a week I read the text Beth sent me - "Have faith in yourself and all you are capable of being." Simple words maybe but I need to be reminded of that.

I often think about how do I thank so many people for giving me my life back. Because of them I'm far removed from the train wreck I was and know with their continued support that I will continue to make progress. Thank you."


Jaime's Story

I came into the agency due to a pending eviction on April 29, 2015.  I lost my job when I went to jail for driving an illegal car with a suspended license.  I entered the HUD PH program because of my chronic homelessness and being at risk of being homeless three times in the last three years.  I also meet the disability requirement for the program. I also use the food pantry when needed.  Christina Bennett has referred me to the Disability Resource Coordinator to help me find a job while receiving SSDI.

The agency kept me from becoming homeless.  It started to feel like I was becoming homeless every other month. 
I am able to keep up with my portion of rent that is not subsidized through HUD PH. Christina Bennett is absolutely outstanding and very caring.  Cindy Butler the receptionist is just as wonderful. I went into HUD Permanent Housing program as a single parent female.  I now have moved my father in to help with the bills.  I am also taking care of him.  His apartment was not safe where he was living.


"Mary's Story"

I want to make you aware of the excellent service my daughter and I received from Nancy Phillips regarding registering for the NYS Marketplace health insurance recently. We had made several calls to an independent  broker who was recommended to us, but received no return calls for over three weeks. After trying to enroll and being locked out of the self-service website, we needed expert help. We obtained the list of health insurance navigators from the NYS website and left messages with several of the contacts.

Imagine our surprise when we received a return call from Nancy Phillips within a day of our call. What makes this impressive was that the message was left the Friday after Thanksgiving and she returned the call on the next day, Saturday. An appointment was set up for my daughter on the following Tuesday at the Career Center.

Ms. Phillips was knowledgeable, professional and compassionate in her dealings with us. The process was completed after some phone calls to determine the problem areas with the application attempt. Even a follow-up call for more information was handled promptly by Nancy. My daughter has never had to deal with health insurance choices at her job of 15+ years, and now needing to select her own coverage from the huge list on the state website was very confusing to her. We both are very thankful for the excellent service Ms. Phillips provided.


Erin's Story

Erin had a wonderful upbringing which included two loving parents who gave her the world.  She met the love of her life, married and gave birth to two beautiful children. Sounds wonderful, however, behind the scenes Erin was living a dark secret; she was a victim of domestic violence.

She hid this secret from her family and friends.  If she had attempted to leave, her abuser would confront her with, "If you leave and give up you really don't care about your family." Alienation from her family resulted in a strained relationship with her mother, a typical batterer's tactic. She finally made the break and came back to her birthplace, Auburn, New York.  Erin was guided to the Agency by locals and the Department of Social Services.  It was working with a Domestic Violence Court Advocate at the Agency that she received referrals for counseling and Legal Aid assistance with court issues and a divorce. Working with a Domestic Violence Advocate, Erin was assisted with safety planning and educated on the options that were available to her.

Six months after her arrival, her ex followed her to Auburn. She wanted the best for her children and wanted to remain friends and co-parent the children with her ex.  Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and the violence and manipulation once again reared its ugly head.  Erin then realized the severity of the situation and how it was affecting her children. They had witnessed far too much and things had to change. She had been living in denial; it was her dark secret. Things were never going to change and she desperately needed help.  At the time Erin said, "He's still running my life and he's not even a part of it."

With the help of the Agency's Court Advocate, Erin is on her way to receiving her divorce and is finally getting her life in order.  She recently found employment and is seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.  She still has a long road ahead of her, but is grateful to have the Domestic Violence Program at her side every step of the way. Erin receives services from the Agency's Supervised Visitation/Safe Exchange Center.  Her children are able to visit with their father in a welcoming, child-friendly environment.  The Center allows her to maintain these visits between the children and their father, without her having to have any contact with him.

Erin stated, "It's been a long road, and I would be lost without the Agency's support. I had found somewhere to open my trust - I was devastated during my journey and didn't trust anyone.  I found that I didn't have that issue with the girls in the Domestic Violence Program.  It was great to find a group that are educated and have an outside view on Domestic Violence, they get it!  It took a lot to find the courage to stand up for myself and the DV Program helped me find the backbone I once had. I know that support is only a phone call away.  I am so grateful".


Lucinda's Story

Luncinda enrolled her daughter in the Head Start Program. She has received physical therapy, speech therapy, and Special Education Itinerant Teacher services.

"I was looking for an opportunity for my child to socialize with other kids her age. I wanted her to have the opportunity to be away from me and have that interaction she needs to grow and develop.... School has helped her with her transitions. She doesn't transition well so the routine helps. She is a very picky earter and school has also helped with her eating habits. She is eating more foods now and trying enw ones. And she is getting better socializing with other people."


Ariana's Story

Ariana began working with CSCAA shortly after she was referred to the Cayuga Works Career Center by the Department of Social Services. She had lost her job and was on the verge of losing her housing. April Palmer, the Agency’s Employment Pathways Program Coordinator stationed at the Center, helped Ariana find safe, affordable housing in the community. Ariana stated, “I couldn’t focus on school while I was worried about where I would live.”

With housing secured, April helped Ariana establish goals to further her education and become more employable. She helped Ariana enroll at Cayuga/Onondaga BOCES to prepare for her High School Equivalency with a long-term goal of becoming a Certified Nurses Aid. Ariana attends classes weekly, and with April’s guidance has secured gainful employment at the Thrifty Shopper and opened her first savings account. She plans next to obtain her driver’s license.

Ariana states that although she is doing much better because of the help she received from CSCAA, she will continue to work with April. “I consider her a life coach. She helps me with everything I need.”

    Contact Info:    


Site I – Administrative Offices, Domestic Violence Services, Energy Services,Family Developmet, Healthy Families
phone: 315-255-1703
    Site 2 -Early Childhood Development
phone: 315-252-0038
phone: 315-539-5647
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