Community Action News
September 2020

At this point in an "ordinary" year, we at WCAC would be finalizing details for our annual All Staff Day - a day when all 115 of our employees from four different offices covering a service area of 46 communities come together for a full day of professional development and training. The photo above is from our 2019 gathering at Point Breeze on the shores of beautiful Webster Lake. Like countless other happenings, the pandemic will dictate a virtual gathering for us this year.

While our recent trainings have focused on critically important issues such as our strategic plan and diversity, equity & inclusion efforts, the highlight of our All Staff Day is always the afternoon session when we take time to recognize staff accomplishments over the past year. I feel incredibly blessed to be the executive director of an agency made up of so many talented and dedicated employees. While the COVID19 disruption has forced the continued closure of our offices to the public and lessened our opportunity to see one another regularly - other than Zoom - I am so very proud of how each member of our team has stepped up to do what they do best - help support our community in need. This edition of our enewsletter is dedicated to our amazing staff. Way to go Team WCAC - together we do better!

Is there a crazier time than during an international pandemic to be starting a new job? Despite such challenges, WCAC is pleased to welcome several new faces to our team.
Reina Oduro joined WCAC as Program Supervisor for WCAC's Healthy Families of Southern Worcester County program in May. Growing up with little, she recalls her family having contact with many helpers along the way and even as a young child noticed them. As a teen mother herself, she considers herself lucky to have been connected to teachers and community leaders who pointed her in the right direction. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from Berkshire Community College with a goal of someday achieving her Masters. Her career as a human service professional has included working at Hillcrest Educational Centers in Berkshire County, Berkshire Children & Families as well as running her own home-based childcare.

In her words, "Programs just like ours helped me to become the strong minded, confident, mother of four that I am today. I can develop as a leader while supporting the professionals who are on the frontlines in helping those who were just like me. These young, new parents can be greatly affected by a positive relationship with a helping professional that can provide them with guidance and tools on how they can be the best parent they can be. By accentuating the positive, focusing on strengths, being there through their struggles and successes and by empowering them to be their own advocates we can help them look towards the future for not only themselves but also their children. "
Dan Hartnett joined WCAC as a Case Manager in the Job & Education Center in July. A graduate of Worcester State University, he worked most recently as a Career & Residential Counselor at the Grafton Job Corps Center where he worked with youth from all over Massachusetts, the country and many other parts of the world.

In his words, "I love Worcester, I love empowering young people, and I am excited daily by the creative and inspriing nature of WCAC and the energy that all of my coworkers bring to their work. I have been welcomed with open arms by my new peers and my new students, who I will unfortunately not be able to meet in person any time soon. Despite that fact, I am most excited to begin some remote learning with students during this time, and to help them identify and pursue short and long term goals for themselves."

Congratulations to Amanda Porter who was recently promoted from Senior Energy Auditor to WCAC's Weatherization Manager. In her eighth year of service at WCAC, she worked previously as an auditor for our sister agency Springfield Partners for Community Action out of Springfield, where she grew up. One of the things she likes most about doing home inspections is that every house is different, every person is different. "It’s humbling to see how thankful a lot of people are, and how lucky I have been in life," Amanda say. "It’s great to be part of the greater good. I think most people underestimate how important it is to feel good at the end of the day, we are very lucky."

Amanda holds a BS in Environmental Planning from Plymouth State University and says she has always been passionate about the environment. In her words, "I love knowing every house I visit is not just saving money but saving nonrenewables, putting less of a burden on the grid. I love working on triple deckers, most of have them had no insulation and all, and a lot of clients comment they can feel the difference on the first day, when just one wall is done. My favorite clients are the elderly ones, it must be so hard getting older, often alone and on a fixed income after working so hard for so many years! I feel like I’m an advocate for them. I know that by working with me, the work will be done right by trustworthy people, and they won’t be taken advantage of. I make the extra effort to help if I can, sometimes shoveling walkways and helping them set up their voicemails." In her new role she will still be doing all the final inspections on homes WCAC insulates, but now will also making sure our budgets are being spent, contractors have enough work, and her fellow auditors have everything they need.

Well liked and respected by her peers in a male dominated field, Amanda holds the distinction of being was the first woman in the state to earn her final inspectors license from the Department of Energy on the first try. She also holds an unrestricted construction supervisor license, among the most challenging to achieve. Kudos, Amanda!

WCAC is certainly blessed with a dedicated and committed staff - with more than ten of our employees having served the agency for 25 years or more! Now that's some dedication! 2020 will mark the end of tenure for several employees who will be retiring. We wish them great health and happiness in their next chapter and thank them for their dedicated years of service.
Elice Chiapulis, LIHEAP Vendor Payment Specialist will retire next month after 20 years of service to WCAC. In the payments department she is responsible for entering clients payments and also assisting with emergencies such as preventing shutoffs and restoring service. She first came to WCAC when she was between jobs and completed a computer training program through the agency. Upon completion she was hired to work in WCAC's Summer Youth Works program which she did for two summers before getting hired full time by the heating assistance program, where she has worked ever since.

In her words, "Working with the youths gave me great pleasure seeing their progress and believing I helped just a little. I enjoy working with numbers and making payments on clients behalf knowing it is helping them thru life’s difficult time financially. I have met many wonderful people with this agency that have carried me thru and I will hold them dearly in my heart and prayers. God has been good to me and has blessed me many times over. " As for her retirement plans, Elice says she will try to relax and slow down, while giving more or her time to help family, in particular her great-grandson Patrick thru this trying time of pandemic virtual schooling. Then take time to visit with dear friends and enjoy whatever life has in store for her. 
Miriam 'Mimi' Shea, Family Support Advocate for WCAC's Healthy Families of Southern Worcester County program, will retire in October after 9 years of service to WCAC. As a Family Support Advocate/Home Visitor her role was to provide parenting education for first time parents, promote and develop parents self-sufficiency skills, provide activities for parent and child interactions to enhance attachment and nurturing skills, complete developmental assessments, and match community providers with parents needs.

Two of her favorite memories while at WCAC include attending field trips, socializations, and parenting groups with parents and watching them interact with their child in a new environment, as well as socializing and forming friendships with other families. She said she also enjoyed the bittersweet planning and hosting the family Graduation Celebration when a child ages out of the program.

As for her retirement plans, Mimi says "I’m planning to check off items on my bucket list that include taking on-line classes, volunteering in the community and traveling to new places."

WCAC's family is growing! And not just with new hires... we've experienced a bit of a baby boom! Congratulations to the new moms on Team WCAC - and a hearty welcome to the world to their adorable little ones!

Congratulations to Job & Education Center Youth Initiatives Manager Lila Pope who welcome daugther Ivey on April 28th; congratulations to LIHEAP Certifier Juetar Saypaw who welcomed daughter Angelina on May 6th; congratulations to LIHEAP Certifier Lourdes Torres who welcomed daughter Keilani on December 12th; congratulations to LIHEAP Intake Associate Juliet Agyeman Prempeh who welcomed daughter Neriah on June 27th; and congratulations to Director of Administration Terra Oliveira who welcomed son Adam on August 25th.

A tip of the hat to the following WCAC employees who are marking some pretty amazing years of service to WCAC in 2020.

40 Years: Marta Papaleo
25+ Years: Sherry Emond-Belair, Evelyn Velez, Todd Smith, Grace Mominee, Cynthia Perodeau, Melanie Dunlevy, Edna Vazquez, Carmen Altiery, Yvette Serrano
20 Years: Elice Chiapulis, Maryann Whalen, Grazyna LaFrance
15 Years: Theresa Johnson
10 Years: Susan Stone, Snjezana Bosnjak
5 Years: Christine Fant, Ellen Ganley, Heidi Nelson, Rachel Kent, Carrick O'Brien, Kristina Sulkoski, Connor Moynihan
With forty years of service (40 years!!) Marta Papaleo holds the honor of longest serving WCAC employee. She first came to WCAC when referred by the unemployment office - instead of filing for unemployment, she got hired. Marta began answering phones at WCAC, spent ten years as the face of WCAC at the agency's front desk before becoming a fuel assistance application certifier, a task she has held ever since. A native of Puerto Rico, she holds a certification in early education from Quinsigamond Community College. Her favorite part of her job is being able to help people.
With 28 years of service, Todd Smith holds the honor of the longest serving male employee at WCAC. What began as a case manager summer job, has turned into a lifelong career mentoring and guiding local youth. A Worcester native and Doherty High grad, Todd holds a degree from Framingham State University. Mr. Smith, as he is affectionately known by many in the community, has spent his career at WCAC working in alternative educational training, employment training, job developer for the Safe Successful Youth Initiative, as well as case manager for HiSET students and summer jobs. His favorite part of his job is seeing 'his kids', as he commonly refers to them, years later when they stop by to say thank you for helping them.

Most recently Todd has taken a leadership role in WCAC's internal Diversity Equity & Inclusion efforts, working to better infuse diversity throughout the agency. To start, the focus has begun on examining the agency's hiring and purchasing policies.
Interested in joining Team WCAC?
Check out these employment opportunities currently available.

Every year, the federal government distributes more than $675 billion to state and local governments based on census data. Census data guides local planning decisions, including where to provide additional social services, build new roads, hospitals and schools and where to locate job-training centers. Every ten years, we undertake a complete count of the country to determine how those billions of dollars are allocated. Now is that time!

The COVID19 pandemic have wreaked havoc with planned Census outreach efforts and while the final deadline to respond had been extended until October 31st, that decision has been rescinded with the final deadline now September 30th. Currently, the response rate for Massachusetts as a whole is 65.8%, but response rates in many low-income communities of color, dubbed Hard To Count (HTC), lag behind. We must act now to make sure people living in HTC communities are not facing the same inequities for another ten years.

Spread the word and help ensure that we #CountEverybody because #EverybodyCounts! Call 844-330-2020 to complete the census by phone or visit to complete the census online.

We may need to stay six feet apart in person but online, let's connect! Follow WCAC on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date on programs and services. Join us in advocating for issues of importance to those in need. Let's get social!
  • WCAC staff boasts a predominantly female staff - 86% female, 14% male

  • The ethnic make-up of WCAC's staff is comprised of 57% white; 26% Hispanic/Latino; 12% Black/African American; 3% Two or more Races; and 2% Asian

  • Special thanks to Hannaford Supermarkets for their recent generous donation of $15,000 to support WCAC's Virtual Food Pantry, which is designed to serve as a socially-distant alternative to the traditional food pantry by distributing gift cards and digital certificates to families for purchasing quality food and other necessities during the COVID pandemic. The program also provides families with gas cards and taxi vouchers to eliminate transportation barriers during a period of reduced public transportation due to the pandemic. The donation will serve approximately 250 families.

  • Special thanks to the United Way of South Central Massachusetts for their recent grant of $9,000 to WCAC. The resources will be used to support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in south county and allow WCAC to expand its outreach efforts for the Low Income Home Heating Assistance Program (home heating assistance) in Southbridge, Sturbridge, Charlton, Dudley & Webster.
WCAC's main office is located at 484 Main Street, right in the heart of
Downtown Worcester. We are pleased to be a participant in the
City's Business Improvement District (BID) which recently created a survey to get people’s ideas for making Downtown Worcester a more welcoming destination.
Please take a moment to complete the survey,
available in both English and Spanish.
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