What do you do? “My responsibilities include fundraising, technical writing and editing reports and proposals; public relations, events, program development, legislative work and being a representative of the agency on different community projects. It’s quite broad.”
How did you get into this job? “WCAC was started in 1965 under president Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and funded under the Economic Opportunity Act. Under the federal regulations for the agency, it must have a tripartite type board, with one-third from the private sector, one-third community sector and one-third public sector representatives.
On Wednesday, December 16, 2009, sixteen students, ages 16-24, from the Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. Job & Education Center (JEC), accompanied by the WCAC computer instructor, opened library cards at the Worcester Public Library to assist with their individualized career readiness program.
Dr. Judy Finkel, JEC Project Director and President of the WPL Board of Directors, believes that this is a truly beneficial opportunity for these young people. “We have formed a perfect partnership. The library cards will enable the students to borrow from the full range of library resources, and, most importantly, at this stage of their job and career search, to provide access to the library’s vast resources including on-line data bases and services.”
The JEC students, who have been enrolled in the program for 5 weeks and have completed 37.5 hours of Pre-Employment Training, are excited about this new resource, as well. “Obtaining a library card will give me the opportunity to have access to books so I can improve my reading skills. If people do not have computers like me, they can go to the library to access materials on-line. I am also looking forward to bringing my daughter there to get books, rent movies, and play computer games,” said Leslie Gonzalez, JEC student.
Students were provided with a guided tour of the library, as well as a thorough explanation of the library’s many valuable resources. Students were delighted to learn about free internet access, a computer lab, resume writing support, mock interview assistance, and many workshops that are open to the public. They were informed that their newly-opened library cards provided them with discounts at local attractions such as museums and theaters. For the majority of the students, this was their first-time utilizing the library.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) federally funded Job & Education Center connects participants to educational and employment supports including Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED classes, college readiness skills, High School Credit Recovery, college certificate programs, career exploration, internship opportunities, job coaching, and job placement. Each JEC participant will receive case management and support in the transition to meaningful employment and an improved quality of life.
“We are thrilled to be able to host an alternative education program at WCAC,” remarked Jill C. Dagilis, Executive Director.
Jill Dagilis, WCAC Executive Director; Priscilla Holmes, Deputy Director; Steve Joseph, UNUM, Deb Penta, PENTA, Jennifer Roy, UNUM, and Chris Collins, UNUM (absent Cary Olson-Cartwright, UNUM).
WCAC recently celebrated National Philanthropy Day by honoring PENTA Communications of Westborough and UNUM in Worcester. Hosted by the Central Mass Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Deborah Penta, along with Chris Collins, Steve Joseph, and Jennifer Roy of UNUM were presented with 2009 AFP awards.
Deborah Penta, Founder and CEO of PENTA Communications, Inc., joined WCAC’s Board of Directors in 2007 because she was so compelled by the agency’s work to help 71,000+ income-limited people in 37 communities through 20 programs annually. Deborah constantly “pays it forward” through her work and volunteerism and her vision and generosity are boundless. Her firm revamped and maintains WCAC’s website, complete the annual report design/layout, design our Action Heroes booklets/invitations, and much more—all gratis! Personally, she and her family purchase, wrap, and anonymously donate 30+ winter coats for GED students’ children! Deb, now Board Chairwoman, is very engaged—officiating our special events, attending board trainings, and dedicating an incredible amount of time and resources to WCAC. Deborah is an incredible leader, mentor, and positive energy force! We are so fortunate to have her as an amazing ambassador for WCAC.
Cary Olson-Cartwright, UNUM’s Director of Corporate Responsibility, contacted WCAC in February to learn about the agency and explain UNUM’s community partnership commitment and its philanthropy plan. UNUM believes in “giving back” and engages its employees in activities that support this strategy. Keenly interested in WCAC’s youth programs, Cary stepped up for our GED students when she and Chris Collins, senior V.P./General Counsel, began by donating lunches and meeting the students in small groups; later engaged UNUM employees in monthly mentor meetings to discuss career paths; and then provided the inaugural WCAC GED graduation at Tuckerman Hall! Our staff, the students and their families were thrilled to be treated to an elegant, catered celebration for their grand achievements. As lead sponsor for WCAC’s Third Annual Action Hero event in May, UNUM also generously provided lodging and transportation for Dr. Melinda Boone–our keynote speaker. UNUM, Cary, and Chris are WCAC’s caring corporate champions!
(Left to Right) Brian Ngo, Samantha Giles, Nimo Yusuf, Sailaja Thavva, Benjamin Chow and Garrett Mason, MCPHS students 2009.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) has always made community service a top priority among its students and college mission. MCPHS has incorporated a Service-Learning requirement to the Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which integrates community service with coursework and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. First-year students are required to select from several local nonprofit organizations to perform 20 hours of community service during their first trimester.
Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. (WCAC) was fortunate to have the volunteer service of 6 students: Brian Ngo, Samantha Giles, Nimo Yusuf, Sailaja Thavva, Benjamin Chow, and Garrett Mason, over a 7-week period that began in early October. These eager, intelligent, and upbeat young people assisted WCAC staff and departments with an array of assignments. On their first day at WCAC, the students expressed their willingness to assist in any way that would be beneficial to the agency.
Mr. Ngo, Mr. Chow, and Ms. Thavva focused their efforts on one-on-one tutoring with several Project Excel and WINGS GED students. Ms. Yusuf provided office support to a new initiative at WCAC–the East African Community Outreach Center. Ms. Giles conducted community outreach for SNAP (formerly Food Stamps program) to promote the program. Mr. Mason provided support to several programs at WCAC including assisting in the Fuel Assistance Department, SNAP, Youth Employment, and Administration.
WCAC is very appreciative to have had this dedicated group of students who often worked passed their required weekly hours, for the 7-week duration. “We could not have asked for a better group of volunteers. The students provided tremendous support to many of the agency’s programs. We at WCAC believe in ‘paying it forward,’ and the Service-Learning model exemplifies this belief. We have seen first-hand the incredible impact it has our local community organizations,” said Jill C. Dagilis, Executive Director. “Thank you, students, for such wonderful work at WCAC!”
Congressman Jim McGovern at the Worcester Public Library with WIA Summer Jobs participants (Photo courtesy of Mike Reno)
Congressman Jim McGovern saw firsthand how federal stimulus funding is helping young people gain employment experience. On August 4, 2009, he visited the Worcester Public Library where 12 young people are working for the summer doing library tasks such as shelving books, helping patrons access the Internet, clipping newspaper articles for the archives, and much more.
The Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. is the lead agency for the summer jobs program in Central Massachusetts. With federal Workforce Investment Act funding through the Central Mass Regional Employment Board, the agency has been able to recruit over 500 youth, secure 120 employers, and hire temporary staff to run the program within a short timeframe. The youth work 25 hours a week and are paid with stimulus funding.
This is the first time that a federal Summer Jobs program has included not only youth from Worcester and the surrounding communities, but also youth from the Blackstone Valley and South County Corridors. Jill Dagilis, Executive Director of the Worcester Community Action Council, said “We are proud to lead this important stimulus employment program for young people. ”
Lucy Gangone, Head Librarian of the Worcester Public Library, said, “the Library is pleased to participate in the federal summer jobs program for youth. One of the Library’s roles is to assist the community in workforce development, and this program targets an important population group for us–young people. Our patrons directly benefit from the daily assistance the youth provide to the Library by making materials and services available.”
For most of the youth at the library, this is their first job experience. Several participants remarked that they were learning a lot on the job and were enjoying working as a team. A key component of the summer jobs program is the mentoring provided by the onsite supervisor, who not only oversee the youths’ activities, but also help them to develop their professional work skills. Their skills were also improved through a rigorous pre-employment training.
WORCESTER — The Worcester Community Action Council held a hands-on demonstration on weatherization this week to teach young people about energy conservation.
The pilot program included 11 participants from Worcester, who will apply the skills they learned by helping to weatherize houses in the Main South area. The program also provides them with skills for a possible career.
“It’s a different kind of summer job that can lead to a career for anyone looking for work in weatherization and contracting. It’s something they’ve never seen before,” said Mark Sanborn, director of energy resources at WCAC. At the demonstration, participants learned about air sealing, different types of foams and the properties of cellulose, a type of insulation.
Priscilla Holmes, WCAC Deputy Director, was recognized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as one of the 100 “Unsung Heroines” of 2009 at the State House on May 13, 2009. A West Boylston resident, Priscilla Holmes will be honored for her extraordinary work with customers—particularly women—during her almost 20 years at the antipoverty agency that serves over 70,000 individuals and families in 37 towns through 20 emergency and economic self-sufficiency programs.
WCAC Executive Director Jill Dagilis said, “Priscilla is a consummate professional. She consistently demonstrates keen leadership, decision-making, and team building skills. Her work has a strong common theme: service to people in need. As a WCAC ambassador, Priscilla keeps the work of the agency, those we serve, and our mission in the forefront of her efforts. She is tireless, goes above and beyond the call of duty, and is always professional, on time, and focused on the positive.”
“Our Unsung Heroines are women who don’t make the news, but make the difference,” said Kira Dunn, MCSW Executive Director. “They are women who use their time and talent to show us the meaning of the saying, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.”
On May 6, 2009, the WCAC held its Third Annual Action Hero Award event at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Worcester. Six individuals and/or organizations were honored for their monetary contribution, in-kind goods and services, and advocacy to WCAC:
John Laracy, Bagel Inn
Joseph Clouatre, Innovative Business Partners
Debbie C. Guiney and Michael Carroll, AllCom Credit Union
Nancy Concemi and National Grid Call Center staff
WCAC’s Worcester Community Connections Coalition Parent volunteers
Rod Lee, Telegram & Gazette
Dr. Melinda Boone, keynote speaker, was introduced by J. Christopher Collins, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, UNUM.
Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. (WCAC) recently nominated and honored the “Renovation Team” for the Association of Professional Fundraisers (AFP) of Central Massachusetts Annual Philanthropy Day.
A luncheon was held recently at Cyprian Keyes in Boylston to salute supporters of local agencies. WCAC was pleased to endorse and salute Paul Fontaine, Liberty Movers; Debbie Delorey, Delorey Contract Interiors; and Fran Madigan and Steve Pratt, F.W. Madigan Company, Inc. for helping enhance the WCAC facilities this past summer for our staff and customers. Jumpstarted with a generous donation of used systems furniture from National Grid, many contractors stepped forward to meet WCAC’s impossible deadline of about five weeks to dismantle and re-assemble our Main Street office to be up and fully functioning for the start of our busy fuel assistance season.
Special thanks to these partners who took the “we can get this done” approach and joined forces and agreed to a cooperative system that was grounded in good teamwork, constant communications, and problem solving. Thank you all for your amazing professional contributions!
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