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Contact Community Services, Syracuse, NY
Contact Community Services


News & Events
Band Lineup Set For TeenFest ’17 August 5
July 21, 2017
(permanent link)

This year’s Jewish Community Center Battle of the Bands winner "Posted" will headline the second TeenFest live music event created by teenagers and for teenagers on Saturday, Aug. 5, in the auditorium at Henninger High School.

Posted features five juniors from Marcellus High School: Riley Burns (bass, vocals), Sam Hayduke (drums), Nate Murphy (lead vocals), Josh Winoski (drums) and Dan Wrona (guitar, vocals). Posted will be play at 8 p.m. as the seventh and final band at TeenFest, which will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 5 and include giveaways and raffles, food, and vendor tables with information that will help teens make healthy choices.


2017 Battle of the Bands
2017 Battle of the Bands winner Posted will headline the TeenFest live music event from 4 to 9 p.m. August 5 at Henninger High School in Syracuse. (Photo courtesy of Michael Davis, Syracuse New Times)


Here’s the complete TeenFest lineup of talented bands and musicians from local high schools as selected by the teen organizers from Contact Community Services’ Teen Talk program:

  • Renny & The Simones (5 p.m.): Indie rock group from Baldwinsville with Kyle Micho (vocals, rhythm guitar), David Millen (lead guitar), Josh Moore (vocals, bass) and Nate Piazza (drums).

  • Quest LaRock (5:30 p.m.): Solo hip-hop artist from Syracuse.

  • Cait Devin (6 p.m.): Singer/songwriter from Westmoreland who performs songs ranging from classic rock to Indie pop on the guitar and piano.

  • The Easy (6:30 p.m.): Jazz/R&B/alternative band from Cicero with Brandon Anthony (guitar, vocals), Connor Anthony (keyboard), Nate Bostick (bass, vocals) and Angelina Butler (lead vocals). The Easy is the only band in this year’s lineup that performed at the inaugural TeenFest in 2016.

  • Tanksley (7 p.m.): Singer/guitarist Justin Tanksley and bandmates Billy Harrison (bass, keyboards) and Tre Reid (drums) from Syracuse perform a creative blend of soul, jazz and rock.

  • Posted (8 p.m.): 2017 JCC Battle of the Bands winner plays a mix of rock covers and original music.

  • Josh & Alice: Acoustic duo Josh Buckhout & Alice Gavin from Camillus will perform during breaks between bands.
TeenFest is the brainchild of the high school students who participate in Contact’s Teen Talk program, where the "Teen Talkers" create web-based media content that promotes healthy choices for their peers.

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

TeenFest is free and open to all families, and food will be available for purchase. Free parking is available in the Henninger High School parking lot. For more information, read the TeenFest fact sheet (PDF) or visit the TeenFest website.



Kelly Johst Receives First Gail Sterling Volunteer Award
June 27, 2017
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services Hotline volunteers Kelly Johst and Gail Sterling share many of the same traits: They’re a positive presence in the call center, compassionate with their callers, and dedicated to their roles as peer trainers. Gail and Carl Sterling
Kelly Johst
John J. Kindon III
Amanda Spear
Kendra Vavra

So it’s only fitting that Kelly received the 2017 Hotline Volunteer of the Year Award that has been renamed the Gail Sterling Hotline Volunteer of the Year Award after Gail, who has been working on Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention Hotline for 43 years!

Kelly and Gail were honored at Contact’s annual Volunteer and Donor Celebration June 22 at Justin’s Tuscan Grill in East Syracuse. Gail and her father, Carl, were saluted as the Donors of the Year, while John Kindon III was named Board Member of the Year, Amanda Spear was named Student Scholar of the Year, and Kendra Vavra was named Rookie of the Year. About 90 people attended the event, which featured videos of each honoree.


Honorees from Contacts annual Volunteer/Donor Celebration
Here are the honorees from Contact’s annual Volunteer/Donor Celebration June 22 at Justin’s Tuscan Grill in East Syracuse. From left to right, Amanda Spear (Student Scholar), John Kindon III (Board Member of the Year), Carl Sterling (Donor of the Year), Kelly Johst (Gail Sterling Hotline Volunteer of the Year), Gail Sterling (Donor of the Year), Kendra Vavra (Rookie of the Year). (Photo courtesy of Rocco Carbone)


After presenting Gail and Carl with their award, Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso asked Gail to remain at the podium for a special announcement. Cheryl revealed that the Volunteer of the Year Award will now be named after Gail, and Volunteer Relations Program Manager Kristine Knutson presented Kelly with the first Gail Sterling Hotline Volunteer of the Year Award.

"As each honoree video was played, I was deeply touched at just how much goes into this organization from a volunteer perspective," Kelly said. "When they got to Gail and talked about her four-decade dedication to helping those in crisis, starting in a small and scary room in an old church, I choked up."

"Gail has been with Contact nearly as long as I have been alive. When they announced that the award would now be named in her honor, I was deeply moved," Kelly added. "What an incredible living tribute that is so fitting to her dedication. I am beyond honored to have my name on that plaque. I only hope that I can work toward filling half of Gail’s shoes!"

Here’s a look at the 2017 volunteer award honorees with links to their videos that were shown at the Volunteer and Donor Celebration (thank you to Dan Lovell, the United Way of Central New York’s Director of Technology and Digital Communications, for creating the videos):

Gail and Carl Sterling, Donors of the Year

Carl Sterling, who turns 94 in October, joined the East Syracuse Volunteer Fire Department at age 19 and was an active member for 57 years (and is still a member!). His wife, June, volunteered on American Red Cross blood drives and volunteered to help elementary school students with their reading.

Gail trained to become a Hotline volunteer in the fall of 1974, started answering calls in January 1975 and hasn’t stopped answering calls for 43 years.

"It’s in the family, so to speak," said Carl, who is a generous financial donor to Contact but often says his "greatest contribution to the agency is Gail."

"It’s a wonderful organization," Carl said. "Where else can you go and have this constant empathy and people who try to understand and want to help you?"

In 1974, Gail responded to a newspaper ad for Contact, which had been recently started by a Presbyterian minister and was in the basement of DeWitt Community Church. From there, Gail and Contact moved to Elmcrest Children’s Center to Oak Street to Genesee Street to Basile Rowe and now to Court Street Road in East Syracuse.

Throughout all the changes in locations, personnel, policies and procedures, Gail has remained unfailingly upbeat and committed to Contact’s mission. In 1996, she became a peer trainer and since her retirement from the Onondaga County Office of Child Support this past March, Gail has assumed a larger role in the basic training for new volunteers.

"We are in awe of Gail and her commitment to the Hotline," Cheryl said. "And, she always wears a smile."

Like her parents before her, Gail said she enjoys giving back to those in need.

"Every time that I answer the phone I’m very aware of the fact that at that particular time, that caller might not have anyone else in their life to whom they can talk about something," Gail said. "I’ve always been very fortunate to have supportive people in my life and I feel like I’m paying it forward, basically."

Watch Gail and Carl’s Video


Kelly Johst, Hotline Volunteer of the Year

In her three years as a volunteer, Kelly has become what Kristine describes as an "ambassador" of the Hotline who is always eager to promote Contact's services and volunteer training opportunities.

"Everybody can give back something, even if it’s only four hours in a shift," Kelly said. "I think that Contact is a rewarding volunteer experience because not only are you helping people who definitely need the help, but you’re also gaining so much for yourself in the process."

Kelly said the active listening and reflective listening skills she has learned as a Hotline volunteer have helped her immensely in her job as an Account Manager for Annese & Associates, Inc., in East Syracuse. And when she receives a call from a person in crisis, Kelly said she has learned how to take those skills and then tap into her own life experiences to connect with the caller and ensure that he or she feels supported and validated.

"In my talking with different people on the calls about a wide variety of topics, I’ve learned that I can get through anything and that I can use those experiences to help others get through," Kelly said. "And even if it’s just getting through to the next five minutes, sometimes that’s all they need."

"The calls can vary; everybody has different reasons for calling," Kelly added. "But at the end of the day, I think that common denominator is that everybody just needs to be heard, and not everybody has somebody willing to listen."

Watch Kelly’s Video


John J. Kindon III, Board Member of the Year

John first joined Contact’s Board of Directors in 2009 and replaced Mike Campbell as treasurer. He had to resign in 2011, however, because the company he worked for at the time merged with the firm that conducts Contact’s audit and that presented a conflict of interest.

Fortunately for Contact, John’s immense talents are always in high demand. He left that job for a controller position for three companies in East Syracuse and returned to the Contact board as treasurer in 2012.

Financial information is complicated, particularly at a non-profit agency such as Contact that operates a variety of programs with a variety of funding streams. John’s volunteer job as treasurer is to oversee Contact’s financial records and communicate the financial information in layman’s terms to the rest of the board.

John, who’s now the Senior Financial Analyst at Carthage Area Hospital, said he enjoys being part of an agency that continues to provide mental health support to the community amid an ever-changing and challenging funding landscape.

"That ability to adapt but stay in that mental health/education field is what really makes this organization special," John said. "When you can be a part of an organization that does so much good in the community, it’s a win-win for everybody."

Watch John’s Video


Amanda Spear, Student Scholar of the Year

Amanda is making a career change to mental health counseling, and her work as a Hotline volunteer since September has convinced her – and Contact – that she made the right choice.

"While wanting to give back, Amanda has also used the Hotline to gain experience, strengthen skills, and to prepare for the next phase of her life: pursuing a Masters in Mental Health Counseling at the University of Buffalo," Kristine said. "We are thrilled for her and confident she will make an excellent counselor."

Amanda understands that she is making a "big leap to do something new." But the feeling she gets at the end of a Hotline shift has made her realize that she wants to make a career out of helping others.

"Sometimes you leave a shift feeling a little bit raw, if you talk to someone who’s having a particularly hard time or if you really hit on an issue that’s you’ve dealt with in your own life," Amanda said. "But this is a supportive community and there’s always someone you can chat with."

"And then sometimes you leave feeling elated or overjoyed because you connected with someone," she continued. "There are some people who are having a really hard time out there. And this is a chance to talk to them and give them some of your time and that feels great."

Watch Amanda’s Video


Kendra Vavra, Rookie of the Year

Kendra is a student at Onondaga Community College who spent the spring semester at Contact and soon learned that the internship was like no other with its challenges and rewards. Kristine said Kendra made great strides in her skills and confidence, and displayed calmness under pressure as she assessed and safety-planned with suicidal callers.

Kendra said her confidence, listening skills and communication skills increased dramatically in just a few months at Contact.

"It’s beneficial for everybody to have somebody to talk to and just to know that somebody is there listening to them," Kendra said. "And I’m just so grateful that I was given this opportunity to be able to be that person to listen to them."

Watch Kendra’s Video



Berkshire Bank Heads List Of TeenFest ’17 Sponsors
June 5, 2017
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services is pleased to announce that Berkshire Bank is the premium sponsor of the second TeenFest live music event that will be held Saturday, Aug. 5, in the auditorium at Henninger High School in Syracuse.

TeenFest will feature talented bands and musicians from local high schools and colleges, giveaways and raffles, food, and more than 20 vendor tables with valuable information that will help teenagers make healthy decisions.

"Today’s generation faces more challenges than ever," said Jen Hunt, Berkshire Bank’s Regional Volunteer Chairperson. "Berkshire Bank is proud to invest in this generation with Contact Community Services to help bring awareness to those challenges."

"TeenFest 2017 delivers a wonderful opportunity for our own local talent to express themselves with their music while providing the teen guests with tools for their own successful future," Jen added. "We are excited to be a part of the evening offering financial education as one of those tools. Berkshire Bank believes in empowering young people for their own success. Life is exciting – let us help!"


TeenFest 2017


VIP Structures is also a major sponsor for TeenFest ’17. Other key sponsors for TeenFest are Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Empower Federal Credit Union, Fidelis Care and Wegmans. For more information about TeenFest sponsorships or to become a sponsor, contact Rachel Tarr, Youth Engagement Coordinator, at (315) 430-9301 or rtarr@contactsyracuse.org.

TeenFest is the creation of the high school students who participate in Contact’s Teen Talk program. Teen Talk is an online multi-media program 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. Henninger High School is an ideal location for TeenFest because it’s an event created by teenagers and for teenagers, and Contact staff members oversee programs in Henninger and most other Syracuse City School District schools.

"TeenFest was designed to encourage teens to find alternatives to negative behaviors and seek the healthy and positive aspects of life," said Jaclyn Turner, a Corcoran High School senior and Teen Talk student who is leading the TeenFest organizing efforts this year. "Our hope is that TeenFest will be an annual event, and that it helps the community realize the potential and importance of its teens."

More than 400 people attended the 2016 TeenFest at the Palace Theatre in Syracuse. The incredibly talented lineup included The Cuddlefish, the 2016 JCC Battle of the Bands winner. The Posted, this year’s Battle of the Bands winner, will headline the TeenFest ‘17 lineup. Additional bands for this year’s event will be announced soon.

To get an idea of the kind of talent that will be on display at the 2017 event, check out some of the media coverage that the 2016 event received from syracuse.com, 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).

If you’d like to support TeenFest ‘17, visit the event’s Generosity page.



Student Recognized For "Doing Something Better Than I Normally Do"
May 30, 2017
(permanent link)

Donovan Spears is a fifth-grade student at Roxboro Road Middle School whose absences and tardy arrivals have decreased more than 33 percent because of his work with Contact Youth Development Specialist Katie Filippone. Read Katie’s newsletter for more about how Donovan is making Katie and Contact proud! Donovan Spears
Roxboro Road student Donovan Spears proudly displays his attendance chart.



A Testament To Hard Work & Advocacy
May 24, 2017
(permanent link)

By Arsenio Wallace
Youth Development Specialist

Matthew Brewster is a seventh-grade student at Roxboro Road Middle School in the North Syracuse Central School District. Matthew has been in Contact’s Youth Development Services program for three years, and during that time he has made great strides socially and academically.


 Matthew Brewster
Roxboro Road Middle School seventh-grade student Matthew Brewster’s success is the result of his hard work and the support of Contact Youth Development Specialist Arsenio Wallace.


Contact has worked for the past four years in the North Syracuse Central School District as an advocacy program, helping students reach their personal goals by offering our help and services as needed inside and outside of the classroom. Matthew struggled with building the courage to participate inside the classroom, and with communicating with others that he encountered outside of school.

Over time and with consistent brainstorming and reflection, he has become successful at communicating and has developed the social skills needed to increase his self-confidence. In addition, Matthew is passing all his subjects and has developed positive friendships and relationships with his teachers. He has made his family and friends very proud, and is a testament to what hard work and advocacy can achieve.



Don’t Ignore This "Invitation"
May 12, 2017
(permanent link)

Jim McKeever is a professional writer who became intrigued by the tragic story of "Marie," a 57-year-old local woman who died by suicide. Who was Marie, Jim wondered, and what drove her to end her own life?

Jim’s research took him to Contact Community Services, where he spoke with Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso. Cheryl said people like Marie who are considering suicide often send "invitations" to loved ones and friends that they’re going through a difficult time. We must learn how to recognize those invitations, Cheryl said, and ask the most difficult question of all: Are you thinking of killing yourself?


Suicide


Jim’s essay on Marie is called "The Invitation," and Cheryl is the "specialist" that he refers to in the piece. The essay recently earned Jim a Prose Award at the Dearing Writing Awards Ceremony presented by SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics & Humanities.

Watch Jim read "The Invitation" at the Writing Awards Ceremony.

"The Invitation" will appear in The Healing Muse 17, which will be available in October and has the first rights to the essay. The Healing Muse is an annual journal of literary and visual art published by SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics & Humanities.

Jim McKeever is a professional journalist with more than 30 years of experience as a newspaper reporter, academic medical university writer, freelancer and blogger.

"I thrive on telling stories that take some time," Jim writes on his website. "Stories that make me lie awake at night, thinking of questions I should have asked."

And that’s the point of "The Invitation" – if someone you know is in crisis, don’t regret the questions you should have asked.



SICD Resource Center to Facilitate Panel at Navigating Grief Conference
May 10, 2017
(permanent link)

The Good News Center in Utica is hosting a 1 1/2-day conference called "Navigating Through Grief: Help, Hope and Healing" from 12:30 to 5:15 p.m. June 8 and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. June 9 at the Radisson Hotel, Utica. The conference will feature several outstanding and diverse national, local and regional workshop presenters/speakers. The workshop schedule, speaker bios and registration information is available on the conference event page (PDF). For more information, contact Melissa Kehler at 315-749-4056 or melissa@thegoodnewscenter.org.

The Good News Center is a non-profit organization that helps strengthen marriages and families by offering marriage and relationship education programs and retreats.


Navigating Through Grief

The Good News Center Presents Navigating Through Grief
Thursday, June 8, 12:30 to 5:15 p.m. and Meet and Greet at 6 p.m.
Friday, June 9, 8:30 to 4:30 p.m
Radisson Hotel, Utica, NY



The Sudden Infant and Child Death (SICD) Resource Center, which is located at Contact Community Services’ office in East Syracuse, will facilitate a panel of bereaved mothers who have lost their children to sudden and unexpected infant death. Parents will address one or more aspects of that loss and the impact it has had on their personal lives. This will include the effect such a loss can have on the self and the relationship between the parents, extended family and community.

The SICD Resource Center provides support for bereaved families, and education and programs to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other causes of infant and child mortality. All services are provided free of charge. Visit the SICD Resource Center web page for more information.



Media Turns To Contact For "13 Reasons Why" Stories
May 8, 2017
(permanent link)

The popular Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" has sparked conversation nationally about teenage suicide, and here in Central New York the media has turned to Contact Community Services to determine the impact of the show on local teens and for information on how to prevent teen suicide.

Crisis Intervention Services Director Cheryl Giarrusso was interviewed by syracuse.com and CNY Central for stories on "13 Reasons Why," which is about a teen girl who leaves recordings that explain the 13 reasons why she died by suicide. Stephanie Lewis, Contact’s Crisis Intervention Services Program Manager, appeared on Spectrum News to discuss the show.

Suicide Prevention Resources


WCNY-TVs TelAuc
Contact’s Kim Pavlus, Lisa Hannon, Bryan Chapel, Ann Walterwright, Cheryl Giarrusso and Olga Oja received several "shout outs" on the broadcast during their shift on WCNY-TV’s TelAuc.


In addition to those appearances, Crisis Intervention Services staff appeared on CNY Central’s Answer Desk with Laura Hand to discuss how CNY residents can benefit from the 211CNY information and referral service. And in late April, Cheryl and other staff members and volunteers from the Contact Hotline worked a shift doing—what else!—answering phones as part of WCNY-TV’s annual TelAuc, a live television auction.



Contact to Provide Programs To Four Liverpool Schools
April 7, 2017
(permanent link)

Liverpool Central School District has received a federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant that will enable Contact Community Services, to provide school–year and summer–learning programs to the district, Superintendent Dr. Mark F. Potter announced April 5. About 750 first- through sixth–grade students from Chestnut Hill, Donlin Drive, Liverpool and Long Branch elementary schools will be eligible to participate in this program.

The nearly $1.2 million 21st CCLC grant from the U.S. Department of Education will allow the district to offer age– and grade–appropriate educational and enrichment opportunities, including academic support, behavior intervention strategies, social–emotional development activities, family literacy activities, and comprehensive summer learning programs.

"These programs will assist eligible students to become academically and behaviorally successful during the school year and maintain these strides in the summer," Potter said.

The programs will start this summer and extend through the 2021 school year (depending on federal funding allocations), and will create up to 50 jobs for teachers in the summer learning program. Contact staff will provide the school-year services and oversee the summer learning program.


Learning programs
Contact has been operating school-year and summer-learning programs since 2005 in area schools such as Roxboro Road Elementary School.


"We’ve partnered with Contact because of its history of delivering exemplary programs that keep high-risk students on track for academic success," said Steven Garraffo, Liverpool’s Acting Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

Contact will partner with the district to design and deliver the programs. According to New York State Department of Education site visits and Syracuse University Professional Research and Development evaluation reports, the 21st CCLC programs that Contact has operated since 2005 have met or exceeded objectives in all areas of achievement.

"Our programs focus on developing the whole student by providing them with transferable skills that foster academic growth while encouraging self–discipline, self–respect and social responsibility," said Karinda Shanes, Contact’s Director of Youth Development Services. "And those skills will have a tremendous long-term impact on their academic success and future."

The Liverpool Central School District has a long history of providing an excellent educational environment for its nearly 7,200 students. The district offers a wide range of programs and services, including honors and Advancement Placement courses, cutting-edge technology, a highly respected special education program and numerous extracurricular activities.



Contact Hosts Prom Dress Giveaway at Fowler H.S.
April 2, 2017
(permanent link)

Like most girls her age, Seaira Hunter of Syracuse wanted badly to go to her junior prom. But the Syracuse Institute of Technology at Central High School junior said she didn’t think it was possible because money was "tight" at home.

But then Hunter saw a flyer at school that gave her hope: A "Prom Dress Giveaway" at Fowler High School on March 25. Hunter and her mother, Lourie Johnson, attended the event and Hunter found a beautiful burgundy dress with shoes and a necklace to match – all at no cost because the items were donated.

"This," Hunter said, "was a blessing."

Hunter was one of several Syracuse City School District students who attended the five-hour event coordinated by Kristen Stanton, a Contact Community Services and Public Service Leadership Academy (PSLA) Student Assistance Program counselor at Fowler. The young ladies and their parents were shocked to see the quality and quantity of the dresses, many of which had never been worn and still had the store tags.


Shopping for Prom dresses
Syracuse City School District students had about 600 dresses to choose from at the Prom Dress Giveaway coordinated by Contact’s Kristen Stanton.


"I think this is perfect," said Rebecca Hilfigure of Syracuse, who was shopping with her son's girlfriend, Amani Johnson. Amani found a teal dress that she wanted for Fowler’s senior prom.

"We’ve been shopping for a couple of weeks and it’s crazy, $300 to $500 for a prom dress," Hilfigure said. "Plus, you still have to get the tux and everything else that goes with it."

"It’s such a relief to get all of my shopping done and not to have the expenses," said Amina Farah, a senior at Fowler who found a dress and accessories.

This past fall, Stanton started collaborating with Cicero-North Syracuse High School Counselor Christine Alencewicz to develop a second-hand boutique at Fowler/PSLA for students to shop for free gently used clothing, shoes and accessories. The boutique encourages an environmentally friendly approach to clothing and uses the motto "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" (C-NS has a similar boutique called "The Green Closet.").

As students started to talk about junior and senior prom, Stanton thought it would be helpful to host a prom dress giveaway. Again, she collaborated with Alencewicz, who was planning a similar giveaway for C-NS. Alencewicz said that after her giveaway on Feb. 11 she would donate the rest of her dresses to Stanton’s boutique.

"Prom dresses and ball gowns can be very expensive and many times are worn only once," Stanton said. "It’s a shame to keep them hanging around in your closet when there is someone out there who could use them."

The problem of transporting about 600 dresses and racks from C-NS to Fowler was solved by the C&S Companies, a Syracuse-based engineering and architectural firm. C&S provided a cargo van and manpower to transfer the dresses. And once the dresses arrived, Fowler Counselor Stacey Levin offered to help Stanton coordinate the event at Fowler.

Meanwhile, others chipped in as word spread about the event. Sara Donals, a PAX Good Behavior Game Partner at Contact, volunteered to help at the event. Christy Dunster, a School Sentry at Bellevue Elementary School and the reigning Mrs. New York American Dream, helped collect dresses, shoes and accessories from friends – and her own closet! – and attended the event to help the young ladies pick out their outfits.

"This is great, just a wonderful idea," Dunster said. "I talked to one high school student’s mom and she said she wasn’t going to be able to buy a dress for her daughter because she has other kids at home she has to care for.

"It’s also showing the students community service and the meaning of what it is to give," Dunster added. "And maybe they'll donate the dress back and it’s something that can be done every year."

Lourie Johnson, Seaira Hunter’s mother, also suggested that her daughter and the others who received dresses return them for next year’s prom-goers.

"We talked about that, returning the dress after (this year’s prom) to help the next person," Johnson said. "Let’s help keep it going."

Stanton said she there are still gowns available if students were unable to make the event. To arrange a pickup, call Stanton at (315) 435-6000, extension 2104.

Contact’s Student Assistance Program is a school-based mental health support and substance abuse prevention program that offers free and confidential assessments, counseling and referral services to students and their families. Learn more about the Student Assistance Program that Contact operates in all five Syracuse City School District high schools and Cicero-North Syracuse High School.



Teaching Moment Taught This Student Leadership Skills and Confidence
March 27, 2017
(permanent link)


Megan and her classmates
Meghan Price and her classmates proudly display their pictures of cats.
Meghan Price, a fifth-grade student at Roxboro Road Middle School in the North Syracuse Central School District, completed her "Teaching Moment" project in Contact’s afterschool program by showing her classmates how to draw a cat. Find out what this project meant to Meghan in this newsletter (PDF) from Contact Youth Development Specialist Katie Filippone.




These 40 Minutes Per Week Make Big Difference for Child
March 13, 2017
(permanent link)

Editor’s Note: Primary Project is a program that helps young children who have school adjustment difficulties and increases their chances for success. Contact has Primary Project Child Associates in several schools in four local school districts, and one of our Child Associates submitted the following story to highlight the impact the Primary Project playroom has on children. The Child Associate’s name and the child’s name have been omitted to protect the child’s privacy.

This is my third year working with Primary Project at McKinley-Brighton Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District, and I have met a lot of great students and seen a lot of positive improvements in their adjustments to school through the program. But this past fall was particularly meaningful because I met a little girl who made exceptional progress in our time working together.

This student came to the attention of the school’s social workers when she started isolating herself and crying a lot when her teacher wasn’t in the room. She was becoming very attached to the teacher and it was concerning the staff. Her situation came up during our selection meeting with the school social workers and principal. We checked her Teacher Child Rating Scale (TCRS) assessment and she was a candidate for the Primary Project program since she was considered to be "at-risk" in peer social skills and assertiveness. When I spoke with the child’s teacher, she expressed her concern that the child wasn’t staying focused on her work and connecting with her peers. After getting a lot of background on her behaviors in school, I was happy to start working with her.

Play Primary Project

For the first three or four sessions, the little girl never spoke. She would play with Play-Doh and make some shapes out of it and then move to the dollhouse or play with the stove, but she would not have any reactions to my reflections. I discussed the student with my supervisor, and it turned out her family had recently moved to a shelter and they didn't know when they were going to get a new home. After finding that out, I was happy to know she was getting that individual time each week because it was exactly what she needed. She had been going through so much change that having this intervention at the same time every week was something that gave her enjoyment and stability. She was still very quiet but was always so happy to go to the playroom.

After working together for 13 weeks, she started spending whole sessions building a house out of Legos or cooking a meal on the play stove, demonstrating a better ability to focus. She started talking to me and telling me about her day and reacting and responding to my reflections on her play. You can see how proud she is of herself after she completes a task and I can tell she is becoming more confident in the playroom and her decision-making abilities started to improve.

I recently spoke again with her teacher and she shared that this student is no longer crying in class and is working well in groups with other students. Her teacher said she has really grown in her social skills and her abilities to stay focused on a task. With two weeks left together, I am excited to see what else she can do. To see how happy she is in school now and how far she has come in and out of her classroom, shows how just 40 minutes of Primary Project time a week can make a big difference in a child's life and adjustments in school.



NewsChannel 9 Highlights Hotline
March 8, 2017
(permanent link)

Volunteer Relations Program Manager Kristine Knutson recently appeared on NewsChannel 9 to discuss the Contact Hotline and explained why the volunteers who staff the Hotline need to ask tough questions. NewsChannel 9 visited Contact in advance of Upstate Medical University’s announcement about a new program focused on teens and young adults who are at high-risk for suicide. Kristine Knutson



Contact + Creative Student = Fun Math Worksheets
February 22, 2017
(permanent link)

Kate Filippone, our Youth Development Specialist at Roxboro Road Middle School, asked one of her students, Michael Gullett, to come up with an innovative way to meet one of his academic or behavioral goals. Michael created worksheets that helped him and his classmates improve their math skills and turned Michael into "Math Master Mind!" Read more about Michael’s creative concept (PDF) and learn more about our Youth Development Services program that Katie and other Specialists are operating in area elementary and middle schools.


Michael Gullett
Michael Gullett, a fifth-grade student at Roxboro Road Middle School, displays the fun math worksheets he created for an assignment from Contact Youth Development Specialist Kate Filippone.




Listen & Watch: Cheryl Giarrusso Discusses 211CNY’s 2-Year Anniversary
February 10, 2017
(permanent link)

On Feb. 11 – 2/11 – Contact Community Services and the United Way of Central New York, United Way of Great Oswego County and United Way of Northern New York celebrated the two-year anniversary of the 211CNY information and referral service in five counties: Onondaga, Oswego, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence.

Cheryl Giarrusso, Contact’s Director of Crisis Intervention Services, appeared on Newsradio 570 WSYR’s Sunday conversation with Jim Donovan Feb. 12 to discuss the past, present and future of 211CNY, and she was also interviewed about 211CNY for the United Way of Central New York's Feb. 16 Community Update video.

By calling 2-1-1 or visiting the 211CNY website, residents in the five counties are connected to a variety of community, social and government services. The 211CNY service is free, confidential and available 24/7, and callers speak to an actual person, not a recording. 211CNY also provides valuable information for those with developmental disabilities and their families, including a 211CNY Disability website.


211 CNY website


"You are here when I need you," said one recent 211CNY caller. "Something kept me awake one night and I called. I was surprised and thrilled that a person actually answered the phone. Thank you 211CNY!"

Since the launch of 211CNY in February 2015, the number of callers has grown to more than 1,500 per month, and the website has received more than 118,000 visits. Contact staff members operate the service, which is funded by New York State through the United Way agencies.

"211CNY is an easy way for people to get connected and get answers, and the growing number of users from year to year shows what a valuable resource 211 is for our community," said Frank Lazarski, United Way of CNY President. "We thank New York State for the continued support of 211 in Central New York and across the state."



Roxboro Road 5th-Graders Scoring Points & Prizes
February 8, 2017
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The fifth-grade students in Youth Development Specialist Kate Filippone’s program at Roxboro Road Middle School are receiving fun prizes for reaching their academic and behavioral goals. Read Kate’s latest newsletter (PDF) to find out how her students are earning prizes with Class Dojo points.


Roxboro Road Middle School 5th-graders were recognized with Contact backpacks and bracelet
Roxboro Road Middle School 5th-graders were recognized with Contact backpacks and bracelets for achieving their academic and behavioral goals with Youth Development Specialist Kate Filippone.



Primary Project Gives Student the "Spirit to Push Forward"
February 4, 2017
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Editor’s Note: Primary Project is a program that helps children who have school adjustment difficulties and increases their chances for success. Contact has Primary Project Child Associates in several schools in four local school districts, and one of our Child Associates submitted the following story to highlight the impact of the Primary Project playroom. The child’s name and school have been omitted to protect the child’s privacy.

"Mary," a second-grade student, has been identified at-risk in three areas: task orientation, assertiveness, and peer social skills. She has also been identified as high-risk for behavior. When I first started seeing Mary, there were times she seemed defiant, and she was testing her limits. At other times, she was hesitant, as though she was lost and needed to find her way—even staring off into space for minutes at a time.

Mary has truly benefitted from Primary Project. It was clear that trust was not an easy thing for her to give. As she became more comfortable in our play sessions, she also became more confident. When she would ask me a question, I would respond by asking her what SHE thought. Mary would tilt her head to the side, think for a moment, then light up like a Christmas tree with her response! This happened several times, and then it seemed she started to realize that her thoughts and opinions mattered.
 Primary Project Child Associate helps elementary student
Play sessions with a Primary Project Child Associate helps elementary students adjust to school and develop social and behavioral skills.


Her teacher acknowledged the changes in Mary. In a recent conversation, her teacher said, "Positive changes are evident for Mary. She really is doing much better." Her teacher added that she has seen the change and growth in Mary, and feels confident that Primary Project was just the boost she needed to go forward, to succeed, and to continue improving.

While this story could be true for many students, Mary’s story is different. For Mary to recognize that her thoughts and choices were important was an empowering leap forward. Mary, you see, had been sexually abused. But in the playroom, she was safe, she led the play and, according to her teacher, she now has the spirit to push forward.



Frazer Elementary Tootle Notes!
January 31, 2017
(permanent link)

By Sara Donals
PAX GBG Partner

One of the most effective elements of the PAX Good Behavior Game are the weekly "Tootle" notes. Tootles are the opposite of tattles; they’re old-fashioned thank you notes to let another person know that you appreciate and value them or something they did.

At Frazer Pre-K-8 School in the Syracuse City School District, Tootle notes are exchanged to recognize PAX Leader characteristics and behaviors, build bonds, and recognize every individual’s value. Frazer teachers say that students enjoy Tootles so much that during "choice time" they choose to write Tootle notes and can’t wait to take them home or have them displayed in the classroom!


students are filling their classrooms with heart-shaped Tootle notes
Frazer Elementary students are filling their classrooms with heart-shaped Tootle notes!
(Photograph courtesy of Sara Donals)


The administration, teachers and students all participate in the fun and benefit from Tootle notes. Frazer is beautifully decorated with them and they are read on the announcements for "Tootle Tuesday."

As Contact’s PAX GBG Partner at Frazer, I am excited to say that the Frazer community and Contact are enjoying this success and committed to getting the most out of Tootle notes. During the month of February, Tootle notes will be in a heart shape with a special focus on self-care. Students will write their usual Tootles to others and write to themselves in the form of positive affirmations. We are looking forward to this time spent on self-reflection!



Oh, What a Night For 21st CCLC Program!
January 25, 2017
By Desiree Phillips
Community and Family Facilitator
(permanent link)

On January 19, the Syracuse City School District’s 21st Century Program partnered with Contact Community Services to host 323 people—230 children and 93 parents—during a Family Health Fair at the WonderWorks indoor amusement park at Destiny USA. We organized the event for Huntington Afterschool Program and H.W. Smith K-8 students and families—the two Syracuse schools that receive 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grants.

Before entering WonderWorks, the families visited each of the 11 vendor tables that included helpful information to improve physical or mental health. At one point, we noticed the line through the Health Fair was moving slow, but that was because parents were asking vendors great questions and really appreciated the valuable information they were receiving!


Students at WonderWorks
The "Bubble Lab" at WonderWorks was a favorite of the students from Huntington
and H.W. Smith Pre-K-8 schools during the Family Health Fair.


Here’s the list of vendors who participated in the Health Fair:
  • American Heart Association with Stroke, Health and Fitness information.
  • Boys and Girls Club with Summer Program and Basketball Team information.
  • Contact Community Services with Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and 211CNY information.
  • Cooperative Extension from Cornell with Healthy Eating information.
  • Fidelis Care with Insurance information.
  • McAuliffe Health Center Dentistry Clinic with Dental Health and Cleaning information.
  • Onondaga County Social Services with Heat and Energy Assistance & SNAP/Food Stamp information.
  • Onondaga County Health Department with Healthy Families and Healthy Eating information.
  • Prevention Network with Drug and Alcohol Prevention information.
  • Syracuse Fire Department with Fire Safety information.
  • Upstate Hospital with Dangers of Tobacco Use information.

When parents were surveyed about what information from the vendors they found to be most beneficial, we received answers ranging from "Suicide Hotline" to "How much sugar is in juice and soda." Many parents said they were impressed by all of it or that we gave "a lot of helpful options." One parent who also happens to be a nurse said, "Many places I (as an LPN) never heard of."

The vendors were impressed by the level of interest from the parents regarding the information they were providing. A Fidelis representative was thrilled with all the families she helped. The Registered Respiratory Therapist/Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist who attended on behalf of Upstate Cancer Center said in an email, "It was a very successful event and I loved seeing all the adorable children. Our community needs to do more with outreach to our youth at all age levels as a constant reminder of how to stay healthy."

A flat screen television was raffled off at the event and it was won by an H.W. Smith student and his mother! Everyone truly seemed to appreciate the event and it was fantastic to see the parents playing games and activities with their children at WonderWorks.

We are so happy to have offered the event and look forward to our next 21st CCLC family event in May at the Rosemond Gifford Zoo. Stay tuned for more information about that event as it gets closer!



Learn What it Takes To Answer the Call
January 23, 2017
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Contact Community Services is hosting an information session for anyone interested in becoming a Hotline volunteer at 6 p.m. Tuesday, February 7, at Contact’s office at 6311 Court Street Road, East Syracuse.

The information session will be conducted by Kristine Knutson, Contact’s Volunteer Relations Program Manager, and include details about the training and skills required to be a Hotline volunteer. A question-and-answer session will follow, and light refreshments will be served.

The Contact Hotline provides free and confidential support for anyone who is depressed, in crisis, going through a hard time, thinking about suicide, or just needs to talk. The Hotline relies on volunteers to provide 24-hour service every day of the year.

Hotline volunteers come from all walks of life, from college students fulfilling internships to concerned community members to retired professionals. Volunteers are highly trained in active listening and crisis intervention.


Call Center
Contact relies on Hotline volunteers to provide free, confidential and 24/7 service
to those in crisis.


"You don’t have to be an expert, give advice, or fix problems; we’re looking for volunteers who are naturally empathetic, dedicated, and able to work in a fast-paced environment," Knutson said. "We’ll train you to respond to all callers, regardless of their age, issue, or emotional state."

The next Hotline volunteer training session is February 17-19 at Contact. In addition to attending the February 7 information session, prospective volunteers can learn more about volunteer and internship opportunities by visiting our volunteer page or emailing Kristine at kknutson@contactsyracuse.org.

"Listening reflectively is a way for me to truly help others unselfishly by not letting my own ego-centered thoughts and opinions distract me from truly hearing another. It also allows me to give back what was given to me in my own personal struggles. To hear someone say,Wow, I feel much betterafter talking is the greatest reward being a volunteer."—Contact Hotline volunteer Colby



Save the Date: TeenFest August 5 at Henninger
January 13, 2017
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services and its Teen Talk program is excited to announce that the second TeenFest live music event will be held August 5 in the auditorium at Henninger High School in Syracuse. The high school setting is an ideal fit for TeenFest because it’s an event created by teenagers and for teenagers, and Contact staff members oversee programs in Henninger and most other Syracuse City School District schools.

TeenFest is the creation of the high school students who participate in Contact’s Teen Talk program. Teen Talk is an online multi-media program by, for and about teens as the "Teen Talkers" discuss their challenges and choices regarding relationships, school, alcohol and drugs, and other sensitive topics.


TeenFest performers joined together to play a tribute
The TeenFest performers joined together to play a tribute to Tyler Lamb at the end of the 2016 event. (Photo courtesy of Rocco Carbone)


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. TeenFest features bands and musicians from area high schools, food, giveaways and raffles, and vendor tables with information that helps teens make healthy choices.

"TeenFest was designed to encourage teens to find alternatives to negative behaviors and seek the healthy and positive aspects of life," said Jaclyn Turner, a Corcoran High School senior and Teen Talk student who will lead the TeenFest organizing efforts this year. "Our hope is that TeenFest will be an annual event, and that it helps the community realize the potential and importance of its teens."

More than 400 people attended the 2016 TeenFest at the Palace Theatre in the Eastwood section of Syracuse. The incredibly talented lineup included The Cuddlefish, the 2016 JCC Battle of the Bands winner that recently released its first full-length CD; The Easy with Kidd O’Ryan, who was recently signed to a record label; and Payton Bird, a rising star on the local music scene.

"The students and the performers loved being at the Palace, and the Palace staff was wonderful to work with," said Rachel Tarr, Contact’s Coordinator of Youth Engagement who coordinates Teen Talk. "Our move to Henninger is more about expanding our partnership with the Syracuse City School District and growing this event because there will be more space for vendors and for attendees."

For the 2016 TeenFest, the Teen Talk students created a "Spirit Award" that was presented to Tyler Lamb, who was scheduled to perform at the event but couldn’t make it because he was seriously ill. Sadly, Tyler passed away a few weeks after TeenFest, but the teen organizers will keep his spirit alive by presenting the "Tyler Lamb Spirit Award" at all future TeenFests. The award will be presented to teens who show Tyler’s indomitable spirit.

Information about how to nominate a teen for the Tyler Lamb Spirit Award and other details about TeenFest will become available on the TeenFest website as soon as they’re finalized. In the meantime, you can get a feel for what the 2017 event will be like by checking out some of the media coverage that the 2016 event received from syracuse.com, 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).



Contact’s 5th-Grade Success at Roxboro Middle School
January 11, 2017
(permanent link)

One success story? Why stop there!

Kate Filippone is a Youth Development Specialist for Contact Community Services’ program at Roxboro Road Middle School in the North Syracuse Central School District. Kate was asked to write about one success story among her fifth-grade students, but she wanted to recognize the progress demonstrated by all of her students so she created this "5th Grade Success" newsletter (PDF).

Give it a read and you’ll see the positive impact that Kate is making on these hard-working Roxboro Road students. And like Kate, Contact’s other Youth Development Specialists are making a similar impact on students in several area schools throughout the Syracuse area as part of Contact’s Youth Development Services program.



Teen Institute Changes Students’ "Minds and Hearts"
December 12, 2016
(permanent link)

In early November, 20 students from Corcoran, Fowler, the Institute of Technology at Central (ITC) and Nottingham high schools in Syracuse attended the 2016 Heart of New York Teen Institute leadership conference in Penn Yan. Those students were joined by five additional Syracuse City School District students through the Right Turn program.

The annual conference empowers teens with the knowledge, skills and confidence to educate and lead their peers in efforts to reduce the frequency of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors. As one of the activities, the students are required to create goals and action plans to achieve them.


Teen Institute students from Syracuse Institute of Technology at Central
Teen Institute students from Syracuse Institute of Technology at Central (ITC) went right to work with their leadership conference goal as they held a drunk and distracted driving awareness event December 9 for ninth-graders at their school.


The ITC students’ No. 1 goal was to raise awareness about drunk and distracted driving among the school’s ninth-graders. On Dec. 9, the Teen Institute students split into two teams and led the ninth-graders in icebreaker and awareness activities about drunk and distracted driving. And 50 students signed pledges that they would speak up if the driver of the car they are in is texting and driving!

Contact Student Assistance Program Counselors Katie Arney-Rattray and Christine LeCates from Corcoran, Kristen Stanton and Odetta Odartey-Addo from Fowler, Kim Allen from Nottingham, and Cindy Squillace from ITC work regularly with the Teen Institute students on events that promote positive change within their schools and their communities, such as the drunk and distracted driving awareness event.



Corcoran High School senior Faith Slater (on ground working the "corpse") was one of the Teen Institute students who worked with Contact Student Assistance Program counselor Christine LeCates (seated) for a Great American Smokeout presentation earlier this year at the school.


The counselors asked some of their Teen Institute students to briefly describe their experiences at the leadership conference. Here’s what the students said:
"Teen Institute impacted my life a lot. I started looking at everything differently and I even started telling other people about my experiences at T.I. Because I went there I have a change of mind and heart. I started treating everyone—even the people that are mean to me—with kindness. And I started to make a change, not only in my school but in my community because of T.I."—Faith Slater, Corcoran, 12th grade

"My experience by going to T.I. is I feel like a better person. I feel like it made me come out of my shell and let new people in it. It also made me realize that you can’t judge a book by its cover, that everyone is going through something. I’m glad that I went to T.I."—Ronaejiah Jenkins, Public Service Leadership Academy (PSLA) at Fowler, 11th grade

"The activities at T.I. made everyone feel that they could open up to whatever had a hold on their lives without any judgement or doubtful energy. All the activities brought us together more than we thought in the beginning. The activities required team work and verbal and physical communication. Activities like these helped us know each other better. A good laugh was the best part!"—Vernazjae McCullough, ITC, 11th grade

"Teen Institute provided a healthy and comfortable way of stepping out of my comfort zone. It helped me decide what kind of person I wanted to be and even gave me a family away from home that I felt close and connected to."—Jada Rachel, PSLA at Fowler, 10th grade

The students weren’t the only ones who benefitted from their experience at the leadership conference. Emily Bielejec, a science and special education teacher at Fowler, and Devin Bielejec, a math teacher at Nottingham, served as chaperones for the weekend and the married couple said they came away wanting to get more students involved in the program.

"Teen Institute helped foster positivity and open-mindedness for the students and myself," Devin said. "The experience was life-changing and influential for the future."

"The transformation from the first night to the last was more than awe-inspiring," Emily added. "I am grateful the students were able to participate in Teen Institute and I look forward to seeing more students experience T.I."

Contact is grateful to the students and teachers for sharing their stories and for all the Teen Institute students who assist our Student Assistance Program counselors in spreading the message about healthy choices and behaviors.

Contact would also like to thank Syracuse City School District Interim Superintendent Jaime Alicea and his staff for their support of the Teen Institute. Superintendent Alicea and Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Anthony Davis attended the Teen Institute Youth Staff induction ceremony in September, and they have continued to provide financial and moral support for the Teen Institute students and their awareness events.



Suicide Loss Survivors Gather Nov. 19 in Liverpool
November 10, 2016
(permanent link)

If you are a suicide loss survivor, you are not alone.

On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day Nov. 19, you can join with a community of suicide loss survivors to find comfort and gain understanding as you share stories of healing and hope. Our friends from the Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) are hosting this free event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at Northside Baptist Church, 7965 Oswego Road (Route 57), Liverpool.


November 19 is Survival Day


The program will include small group discussions, a local survivor panel, lunch, and a screening of "Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide," a new documentary produced by the AFSP that traces the ripple effect of a suicide through families and communities and explores the challenges survivors face as they cope and heal.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people who are affected by suicide gather around the world at events in their local communities for support, information and empowerment. Get more information on the Liverpool event from the ASFP’s Central New York Chapter.

At Contact, our primary mission is suicide prevention. Get a complete list of our free suicide prevention services and trainings.



A Win-Win: Eat Pizza and Support Contact!
October 18, 2016
(permanent link)

Uno Pizzaria and Grill From now through Dec. 9, you can support Contact's mission to prevent suicide in Central New York by enjoying lunch, dinner or a late-night snack at the Uno Pizzeria & Grill restaurant on the food court level at Destiny Mall USA.

Here’s how it works: Print out the "Dough Rai$er" certificate (PDF) and present it to your Pizzeria Uno server at any time between now and Dec. 9. Uno Pizzeria & Grill will donate 20 percent of your bill to Contact if we raise $1,500 or more in total sales by Dec. 9! The certificates are valid for the entire day, so present them during lunch, dinner or at the bar (beverages are also included), or if you want to order a late-night snack (appetizers in the bar are half-price from 3-7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close Monday-Friday and all day Sunday). The coupons are also valid for takeout.

The donations you make through this Dough Rai$er will go toward Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention services. In the past year, the Contact Hotline received 9,568 crisis-related calls and 3,762 of those callers said they were thinking of killing themselves. We need your help as these numbers continue to rise.

Please consider visiting Pizzeria Uno at Destiny USA before Dec. 9 and hand out the coupons to your friends, family and co-workers. Thank you for your support!



Contact SAP Counselor Appears on WCNY’s "Insight"
October 11, 2016
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Cindy Squillace, Student Assistance Program Counselor We’re proud to say that Cindy Squillace, our Student Assistance Program Counselor at Syracuse Institute of Technology at Central (ITC) High School, was invited to be a guest panelist on WCNY TV’s "Insight" program that aired Oct. 7. The topic: Why Central New York has the most segregated school district borders in the state.

Watch Cindy on Insight.

As a SAP counselor at ITC, Cindy has a unique perspective on this topic because she’s heavily involved in the Teen Institute program that involves diverse students from multiple school districts. Learn more about how Cindy and our other SAP counselors are actively involved in school life.



Contact Drops and Gives 22 To Support Veterans
October 3, 2016
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Staff and volunteers from Contact Community Services and the Central New York Chapter of the American Red Cross helped raise awareness of suicide prevention for veterans by performing the 22 Push-Up Challenge at 12:22 p.m. Sept. 28 at Contact’s office in East Syracuse.

The 22 Push-Up Challenge takes its name from a 2012 Department of Veteran Affairs study that said an average of 22 veterans die by suicide each day. Similar to 2014’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised money and awareness for ALS, the goal of the Push-Up Challenge is to draw attention to the issue and promote suicide prevention for veterans.

Watch Contact and the Red Cross team up to perform the 22 Push-Up Challenge.

The goal of the 22KILL movement was for supporters to perform 22 million pushups, and the goal was reached at about the same time Contact and the Red Cross performed the challenge! Celebrities like Kevin Hart, Olympic gold medalist Simone Manual and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson made videos of support and challenged fellow celebrities to do the same, and the total was at more than 27 million pushups in early October.


22 Push-up Challenge
Contact and American Red Cross staff and volunteers perform the 22 Push-Up Challenge.


Contact is a non-profit agency that’s focused on preventing suicide with free counseling and trainings. The American Red Cross' Service to the Armed Forces program supports veterans and current military personnel and their families with emergency communications, financial assistance, information and referral services, deployment services and reconnection workshops.

NewsChannel 9 and WAER 88.3 public radio covered the 22 Push-Up Challenge and helped us raise awareness of suicide prevention for veterans.



Out of the Darkness Community Walk Oct. 8
September 30, 2016
(permanent link)

You can help bring suicide "Out of the Darkness" by participating in the 11th annual Liverpool/Syracuse "Out of the Darkness Community Walk" (PDF) from noon until 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Long Branch Park (West Shore Trail) in Liverpool.

The walk will show support for the families and friends of the more than 42,000 Americans who die by suicide each year, and the more than 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" walks, which this year will feature about 200,000 people walking in 350 cities across the country.

Registration
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. 8 event! To register as a walker, join a team or offer a donation, please visit the Out of the Darkness Walk registration page.


Walk, out of darkness
Contact staff and volunteers at the 2015 "Out of the Darkness Walk"
at Long Branch Park in Liverpool.


For more information about the Syracuse/Liverpool walk, please contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at dgraham@afsp.org.

Contact provides free, confidential and 24/7 crisis and suicide prevention services in Central New York, including the Contact Hotline, Crisis Chat online counseling, and mental health support services.



Contact Supports State’s Suicide Prevention Plan
September 19, 2016
(permanent link)

On September 12, the New York State Office of Mental Health released an extensive, multifaceted plan for suicide prevention aimed at reducing New York State’s suicide rate. "1,700 Too Many: New York State’s Suicide Prevention Plan" will empower communities, healthcare professionals and researchers with the tools they need to decrease the number of deaths by suicide.


1700 Too Many, NYS Suicide Prevention Plan


Contact Community Services’ primary mission is suicide prevention, and our Director of Crisis Intervention Services Cheryl Giarrusso is encouraged by the state’s plan. "I think the push right now is to make the public aware that suicide is a public issue," Cheryl told WAER 88.3 public radio. "It is something that has to come out of the darkness and into the light."

Read WAER’s report that included Cheryl’s interview, and read the Office of Mental Health news release announcing the plan.

Read the entire NYS plan (PDF), and find out what Contact is doing to prevent suicide in Central New York.



Teen Institute Youth Staff Named for 2016-17
September 14, 2016
(permanent link)

Contact Community Services is proud to announce the five Syracuse City School District (SCSD) students who have been selected to the Teen Institute Youth Staff for the 2016-17 school year: Mikem Simpson, Kyra Spaights and Solomon Lawrence from Syracuse Institute of Technology at Central (ITC), and Uriah Howard and Za’Reyah Brown from Fowler High School.

The Teen Institute Youth Staff will partner with Contact’s Student Assistance Program Counselors Cindy Squillace from ITC and Kristen Stanton and Odetta Odartey-Addo from Fowler to help raise awareness and educate their peers about living healthy lifestyles.

"These outstanding youth leaders worked hard throughout the summer and showed leadership in teamwork, creativity and living a healthy lifestyle," Cindy said. "They are outstanding representatives of the Syracuse City School District!"



Syracuse City School District Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Anthony Davis (far left) and Interim Superintendent Jaime Alicea (far right) welcome the 2016-17 Teen Institute Youth Staff and their Student Assistance Program Counselors from Contact. From left to right, Mr. Davis, Solomon Lawrence, Kyra Spaights, Cindy Squillace, Mikem Simpson (behind Cindy), Kristen Stanton, Za'Reyah Brown, Uriah Howard and Mr. Alicea.


The Youth Staff will oversee the other Teen Institute students from all of the SCSD high schools. Teen Institute members empower their classmates with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lead a life free of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. They also educate and lead peers to reduce the frequency of substance abuse and other unhealthy behaviors, and advocate for positive change within their schools and communities.

The Teen Institute Youth Staff received a pleasant surprise when SCSD Interim Superintendent Jaime Alicea and Assistant Superintendent for High Schools Anthony Davis attended the students' Teen Institute induction ceremony. The SCSD School Board also recognized the Youth Staff at its Sept. 14 meeting by rewarding the students with certificates of achievement.



Join Judi and Support Contact in September
September 5, 2016
(permanent link)

Judi Dzikowski Judi Dzikowski supports Contact Community Services and she wants you to join her.

During September, which is national Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, Judi has pledged to match your donations up to $1,000. Watch Judi’s video to see why she believes in Contact’s mission to support the social, emotional, behavioral and mental health of children and adults throughout Central New York.

"We recently had our own grief and loss of a family member through mental illness, and it was important enough for me that we asked for people to contribute to Contact in her honor," Judi said. "It’s so important that we have outreach for those who cannot reach out for themselves. I’m thankful that Contact is here as an organization that can lend a helping hand."

Your secure donation through Contact’s website will go directly toward Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention counseling, mental health trainings and student programs. You can donate by clicking this button:

Thank you for your support!



Dough Rai$er for Contact September 29 at Pizzeria Uno
September 2, 2016
(permanent link)

Uno Pizzaria and Grill On Thursday, Sept. 29, you can support Contact’s mission to stop suicide in Central New York by enjoying lunch, dinner or a late-night snack at the Uno Pizzeria & Grill restaurant on the food court level at Destiny Mall USA.

Here’s how it works: Print out the "Dough Rai$er" certificate (printable PDF) and present it to your server on Sept. 29. Uno Pizzeria & Grill will donate 20 percent of your bill to Contact if we raise $1,500 or more in total sales that day, or 15 percent if we raise less than $1,500. The certificate is valid for the entire day, so present it during lunch, dinner and Happy Hour (beverages are also included), or if you want to order a late-night snack (appetizers in the bar are half-price from 3-7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close on Thursdays). The certificate is also valid for takeout.

We scheduled this event for September because it’s national Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The donations you make through this Dough Rai$er will go toward Contact’s crisis and suicide prevention services. In the past year, the Contact Hotline received 9,568 crisis-related calls and 3,762 of those callers said they were thinking of killing themselves. We need your support as these numbers continue to rise.

Please consider attending our September 29 Dough Rai$er and giving the certificate to your friends, family and co-workers. Thank you for your support!



An Anniversary Message from Executive Director Pat Leone
September 1, 2016
(permanent link)

Dear Friends,

Pat Leone Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the work of Contact Community Services. I recently celebrated my 10th anniversary as Contact’s Executive Director and I remain in awe of the hard work and professionalism of our staff and volunteers. From life-saving crisis counseling services to programs that create purpose-driven youth in local schools, our staff and volunteers support more than 72,000 youth and adults annually and that number will continue to grow.

Contact Community Services, Inc., is a regional human services organization dedicated to suicide awareness and prevention. Contact also works to end the stigma associated with mental illness, mental health crises, and substance abuse issues that can lead to suicide. To accomplish this mission, Contact delivers strengths-based social, emotional, behavioral, mental health and education prevention services that advance positive behavior and social, emotional and mental health.

Here are some of our current programs:

  • Free, confidential and 24-hour crisis intervention services, including a Crisis Counseling Hotline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline National Backup, Crisis Chat, and Crisis Center Follow-up.

  • 211CNY, a five-county information and referral phone line and website for basic needs, human services, developmental disability services, and mental health services.

  • School-based services that provide direct student support in schools, and youth development services that empower youth by helping them identify their strengths and abilities.

  • Community-based training and consultation services that provide evidence-based training and technical support in developing social, emotional, behavioral and mental health skills.

  • The Sudden Infant and Child Death Resource Center that provides education and training services to parents to prevent infant and child death, and counseling services to families who have lost an infant or child.

And there’s more! Just this past summer, we had the pleasure of tutoring 600 students in our enrichment "Summer Bridge" programs. And we recently started a new initiative as we’re coordinating and facilitating the Onondaga County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

More information about our services is available on this website, or by calling us at 315-251-1400. If you’re not on our email list and would like to receive a quarterly newsletter and information about our trainings, email us at contact@contactsyracuse.org.

Thank you for your continued support of Contact, and remember the best way you can help us is to tell your loved ones and friends that we’re here!

Sincerely,

Pat Leone
Executive Director



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 syracuse.com, 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.)

Cuddlefish
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:


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.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,
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 syracuse.com 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 syracuse.com. 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 https://smile.amazon.com. You’ll need to create an Amazon account if you don’t already have one (you can use the same account on Amazon.com 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 https://smile.amazon.com is the same as shopping from amazon.com, 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:

John,
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, localsyr.com

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 www.talk2prevent.ny.gov 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 dgraham@afsp.org .

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 www.iasp.info/wspd/.

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 www.afsp.org/walk. For more information, contact Debra Graham, Central New York Area Director for the AFSP, at dgraham@afsp.org.

  • 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/syracuse.com 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 wcny.org, minute 8:00.



North country connects with 211
April 14, 2015
NNY BUSINESS
(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
Syracuse.com
(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!
211CNY
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


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