I’m a senior citizen, and a 32 year employee of a Community Acton Agency in Watertown, New York. Before joining the agency, I was on social services, a single working parent (mother to 4) who struggled to make ends meet. I guess you could say I’ve been on both sides of the tracks. I used the Housing Assistance Program to pay the rent, HEAP to help pay the high heating and energy bills, Food Stamps to feed my family, and Medicaid to help with our medical bills. I was not proud of having to receive assistance but my family’s needs had to come first. I went to the Department of Social Services with hat in hand and I have to say I was treated as an inferior being. It was almost as if they were taking money from their own wallets to pay my bills and, I might add, grudgingly giving it to me. I was embarrassed to say the least and vowed I would get a job and never accept their help again or treat others the way I was treated. I found a home with the Community Action Agency’s Head Start program in 1982 as a bus driver, the first step on my road to independence. I’ve been with them in various positions since then and one of the VERY first things I learned in this agency was that I counted. I wasn’t just a number. I had a face, a name and feelings and was treated with respect. I was taught to value myself and others, and to treat our customers with that same feeling of respect. We are a caring agency willing to go that extra mile to make people feel valued and respected no matter what circumstances of life they may be in at the moment. I know Community Action agencies work hard to assist, support and empower people because I was, and am, one of those people who developed into a self-supporting proud member of society, and I thank them every day for making me feel valued. I will be retiring from my agency soon but my heart will always be here. I can proudly say I was a part of one of the greatest organizations in America. I am and always will be a part of Community Action.
-Nancy F. Gossiaux , Watertown, NY