FCA Helps Keep Seniors Warm During Winter Months

When John Larrieu was faced with financial challenges in 2014,  he turned to Family & Children’s Association (FCA) to ease the struggles of home heating costs. A referral from social services led him to the Mineola-based agency, where he was introduced to Kim Feldman, a Case Coordinator with FCA’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP). Feldman walked John through the necessary steps to apply for the program, which helps more than 2,000 low-income seniors pay the cost of heating their homes each winter.

“Our program opens to the public in mid-November and eligibility is determined based on a person’s income and household size,” Feldman explains. Applicants must also present identification (such as a driver’s license or social security card), a sample heating or utility bill, as well as a bank statement or tax forms to declare any interest earned.

Approved applicants receive one regular HEAP benefit per year. Once an application is processed and approved by FCA, a voucher from NYS HEAP is sent to the fuel company’s account, resulting in a credit that appears on the monthly bills of HEAP participants.

For Long Island seniors like Larrieu, the program offers peace of mind and added comfort in his Oceanside home. “With HEAP, I can raise my thermostat instead of walking around with two sweaters on,” Larrieu says.

With that, comes increased safety. Feldman points out, “Having a sufficient amount of heat, seniors won’t have to look for alternative ways to keep warm, such as turning on an oven or other potentially dangerous methods.”

In addition to providing enhanced safety and an improved quality of life, HEAP also helps to ease financial pressures that many seniors face. As a caregiver to two grandchildren, Larrieu is grateful for the support that HEAP provides. “When you’re older and living on a fixed income, you have to save costs any way you can. Thanks to HEAP, I can buy a little more food for the household knowing my heating bill is taken care of.”

Larrieu credits Feldman for enabling him to fill out an early application form. Her reassuring demeanor assists him through the process “every step of the way,” as she makes sure the forms are completed properly and on time.

“It’s all about being there for someone and Kim is a godsend to me. She and Family & Children’s Association truly go above and beyond,” Larrieu says.

For more information on HEAP, including reduced rates on utility bills, free weatherization and other benefits, please call 516-227-7386, (516) 746-0350, or visit https://www.familyandchildrens.org/programs-services/senior-services/heap/.

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Jonathan: A Fresh Start

I am Jonathan and I am 21 years old.  Both my parents abused drugs while my siblings and I were growing up with them.  When I was 7 years old my mom left and never returned.  I went to go live with my aunt for 3 years and was told that my mom died when I was 9 years old.   At the age of 10 my father decided to come get me and my siblings to live with him and his new girlfriend.  He and his girlfriend continued to abuse drugs in front of us. I don’t know why or how but I was then placed into foster care at age 11. My siblings and I were all split up and placed in different group homes.  At 19 years old I decided to sign myself out of foster care and live with my biological Aunt who promised me a better life.  I thought this was a chance to live a normal life with some stability and a real family.  After a few months she left me alone in her apartment, utilities went unpaid and there was no food in the home.  She had left to be with a boyfriend she met online. It’s never a good time to go through what I was going through, but I was just diagnosed with type II diabetes and prescribed multiple medications including insulin shots every day. I didn’t really understand my medical condition, but I knew I had to take better care of myself.

I was feeling scared and all alone and with not knowing who to turn to, I called my old Project Independence worker at FCA.  She explained the Nassau Haven Emergency Shelter and the Walkabout transitional living programs to me.  Although the last thing I wanted was to enter a shelter, I had few options left. I was shocked at how nice the house was at Nassau Haven and the staff too. I stayed at the Nassau Haven for 2 weeks, visiting Walkabout and starting to have dinners and attend their group meetings until I moved officially there.

While at Walkabout I secured employment, started individual counseling, and was taken to the endocrinologist to learn about diabetes and receive the proper medical care.  Most kids my age have family to help and support them, my mom died when I was younger and my father who I had a complex relationship with, recently passed away.  I started to form bonds with the FCA staff and they became my family.  I saved my money while at Walkabout and staff helped me find an apartment that I could afford in Freeport; I wasn’t ready to leave, but the Walkabout laws say that kids can only stay until their 21st birthday. They helped me decorate my apartment and put me in what they call “after care”- I call it having someone who checks in on me and offers guidance and help.  I can't say that it's been easy and I know I have difficult days ahead, but I can say I wouldn't be where I am  without the support and help of FCA’s Nassau Haven and Walkabout programs.

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Alejandra: Leaving Home Behind for Safety

"My Name is Alejandra, I am 15 years old from El Salvador.  The last grade I completed was 5th grade. I remember that I enjoyed going to school. My parents and grandmother were my support and I love them very much.

One day when I was coming back from a neighborhood store to buy milk and bread for my grandmother four men unknown to me approached me (my heart began to palpitate so fast) they pulled me to the side of the road & covered my face.  I screamed as loud as I could but no one heard me.  These four men sexually assaulted me for approximately 40 minutes.  I went back home and told my family what happened.  My father decided to file a police report about what happened to me and the next day a group of men came to our house armed with machetes and destroyed our property and then left.

Although this was becoming common in my village, when it’s you and your family, your world falls apart. My father immediately called a relative in New York and on that sad day, a coyote was hired and my journey to leave my country and my family began.

We slept at night and walked during the day. We did not have much food and only ate once a day.  When we were crossing the Mexican border, we were apprehended and taken into police custody., The police asked me a lot of questions and then I was transferred to another location that looked like a warehouse & then I was finally transferred to a shelter in Texas.

While I was in the shelter I was given a physical by a doctor. The doctor explained to me that I was 4 months pregnant. My thoughts were “why me”, I am not prepared”, “my god father is not going to help me”. My feelings and emotions were all over the place. After attending daily therapy sessions I began to feel more comfortable and accepting of the unknowns that I knew awaited for me.

I stayed in the shelter for several months until my god father in New York was able to provide all the necessary documents needed for me to leave the shelter.  As soon as I arrived at my god father’s house in Westbury, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Fortunately my god father was supportive and didn’t kick me out of the house and knew of this program called FCA PACT.

With the help of the PACT program I have been able to learn parenting skills which have provided me with the tools that I need to be a better mother. The support I am getting from my PACT worker is giving me the confidence I need to be a new young mom.  I am very fortunate to have found people who truly care about me & my daughter. People who chose to help me and my baby from their hearts and not expect anything in return. All I have to say is thank you for saving my life and welcoming me to your country where I have found peace, love and support.

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Senior & Friendly Visitor

With her vibrant smile radiating throughout the home she and her late husband first moved into back in 1970, 86 year-old Sadie Lloyd’s current mindset is positive and full of life. Yet, she wasn’t always experiencing high spirits. Living alone and suffering from Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), a medical condition that affects the heart which can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications, Sadie struggled for a long time in bed with no family nearby. The isolation Sadie experienced is telling of many seniors’ lives on Long Island.

The aging population on Long Island continues to increase as baby boomers are reaching their 70s and 80s and many unheard voices are feeling the effects of rising healthcare costs, limited mobility to access resources and shifts in family dynamics which families are unprepared to effectively manage. Isolated grandfathers and grandmothers, many of which are fearful of leaving their homes for a variety of reasons or reluctant to move in with their children, are unaware of the vital services that exist on Long Island to help improve their overall quality of life.

Sadie is a perfect example. Even before her husband, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for eleven years, passed away in 2011 from pneumonia, Sadie began to feel truly isolated. She was her husband’s caregiver 24/7 and had to accept that her husband often didn’t recognize who she was. Nevertheless she gave him the care he deserved with no expectations and little support. After her mother, a live-in housekeeper, passed away in 2013, Sadie had no family left in New York. Her AFib episodes, which consisted of heart complications that would often make it difficult for her to function, started occurring more frequently and she had to attend more frequent doctor’s appointments to check up on her cardiac health. Bills were not getting paid, mail was piling up. Sadie’s neighbors would check-in once in a while, but her days would be spent in bed ruminating in anticipation of her next AFib episode. All of that changed when FCA (Family & Children’s Association) came into Sadie’s life. With the help of Sadie’s In-home care (EISEP) case manager, who identified Sadie’s need for a “friendly visitor,” Sadie’s life was about to change for the better.

FCA’s Friendly Visiting Program provides seniors with a trained volunteer, one hour a week, to provide companionship and support. Liz, Sadie’s friendly visitor, showed up at her door nearly two years ago ready to help and continues to meet with Sadie to this day. “Liz is a light entering my life each time she walks into my home,” said Sadie with a heartfelt look on her face. Although Liz is only asked to visit Sadie one hour per week, she ends up staying with Sadie around three hours every Friday. “Friday used to be my day with my father before he passed, then it was my day with my aunt before she passed, now it’s my day with Sadie”, said Liz of her motivation to help seniors-in-need.

The first year of Liz’s visits to Sadie’s home involved sitting bedside, listening and talking with Sadie who insisted on staying in bed all day. Liz would listen to Sadie’s stories, learn about her history and share laughs. In addition, Liz would ensure that Sadie was kept up with her mail, bills and doctor’s appointments as Sadie worked on finding the motivation to be more active and outgoing.

“It breaks me down when I feel down from AFib. Liz helps me with small chores like laundry, cleaning curtains, preparing food, but more importantly is willing to listen to me talk,” said Sadie. She continued, “My Family & Children’s Association workers [Liz and case manager] care for what is in my best interest and I am blessed to have them in my life”.

As weeks turned into month and months turned into a couple of years, Sadie is now up and walking around the home with a contagious smile, welcoming of guests to her well-kept home on a quiet street in Hempstead, NY. She goes to church every Sunday, her neighbors take her out to breakfast every Thursday and she occasionally goes to the Yes We Can center to play dominoes and cards, dance, learn sign language and engage in bible study with a large group of friends she’s made over the past year. At home she enjoys cooking and is carefully and gradually ramping up her daily outdoor walks due to her asthma.

Although Sadie still experiences AFib complications, she is living life to the fullest. “I talk to all my friends about FCA’s Friendly Visiting Program. If I had known about this program when I was younger, I would have become a friendly visitor myself,” shared Sadie.

Becoming a Friendly Visitor is simple. You’re asked to dedicate at least one hour a week with a senior in Nassau County after clearing the required background checks and attending a free-training session. While most friendly visitors are retirees, Liz is an example of a friendly visitor who works two jobs and is still able to find the time to change a person’s life for the better. For more information, call us today: 516.292.1300 or email info@familyandchildrens.org.

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Graduating High School

The end of school and the beginning of summer brings graduation day for many. Families gather and celebrate yet another milestone as their young one furthers their education and develops into a young adult. For several Long Island teens, graduation may involve little to no immediate family in attendance yet feel equally supportive. At FCA's Walkabout Transitional Home for homeless young adults, the primary goal is to guide youth to be able to live independently and develop into healthy adults. Youth who have struggled to find a place to live or were living in an unstable and often unsafe environment find Walkabout to be a warm, welcoming and judgement-free home with staff members that will go above and beyond to help residents stay on a path to success. In addition to providing in-house services, Walkabout staff are well known for attending outside events that celebrate and recognize resident's accomplishments.

At FCA's Walkabout Transitional Home for homeless young adults, the primary goal is to guide youth to be able to live independently and develop into healthy adults. Youth who have struggled to find a place to live or were living in an unstable and often unsafe environment find Walkabout to be a warm, welcoming and judgement-free home with staff members that will go above and beyond to help residents stay on a path to success. In addition to providing in-house services, Walkabout staff are well known for attending outside events that celebrate and recognize resident's accomplishments.

Most recently, Walkabout celebrated the graduation of a self-motivated resident named Angela. Her time at Walkabout has been immensely exciting for staff to witness how far she has developed in terms of gaining the tools needed for independent living. Angela is a true scholar, excelling in her academics and going above and beyond to advance her studies when possible.

Walkabout staff describes Angela as confident with a clear path for her academic future. Walkabout career counselor Kristen Ferrari said, "she knows what she wants and is willing to put in the work to get there". 

Walkabout staff was in attendance for Angela's graduation ceremony at Uniondale High School last month where she was awarded a merit scholarship from the Uniondale Federation of Teachers as well as a scholarship from Latinas Unidas. Angela is currently choosing between Nassau Community College and Mercy College to study elementary education.

Walkabout can house 10 young adults at a time and is a unique program to Nassau County. To learn more about Walkabout, visit the Walkabout web page. To support Walkabout, visit our donate page to contribute to the success of hundreds of young adults each and every year.

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Valentine's Day - Smiles for FCA's Seniors

Verizon Fios1 Long Island Valentines Day Story: From FCA's Youngest to our Eldest - Heart and Soul February 2017 brought many smiles to seniors across Nassau County. A unique collaboration between Family and Children's Association and 1-800-Flowers led to 15 bouquets being delivered to seniors who are involved with FCA's senior programs. One special delivery was made to Mrs. Citarella (100 years young) who received a bouquet of flowers from FCA's nursery co-op kids. The kids also made Mrs. Citarella hand-made Valentine's Day cards and sang her a love song. Mrs. Citarella was married on Valentines Day in 1942 to her husband who passed several years ago.

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Homeless Teen Fights for Her Future

While most 17 year olds were thinking about their high school graduation or contemplating which college they will go to in the fall, Jessica* was struggling with unstable housing conditions along with her father when she first entered Family & Children's program at Nassau Haven for runaway and homeless youth. Despite these challenging circumstances, Jessica was determined to be a successful and independent young adult and to achieve her goal of graduating from high school and going to college.

Having made great progress at Nassau Haven Jessica was transferred to FCAs Walkabout for Young Men and Women where she joined other young adults at the transitional housing facility. "At Walkabout, the focus is on helping youths have a place to call home while they gain important skills leading to self-sufficiency as well as the ability to become financially independent" says Andrea Kerr, Program Coordinator at Walkabout. Jessica was absolutely thrilled to reach some important milestones during her stay at Walkabout including graduation from Freeport High, securing her very first job at Starbucks and saving $2,000!

With the help of Day Counselor Kristen Ferrari she was able to navigate the college application process and was thrilled when she received her acceptance to SUNY Buffalo Educational Program.

Jessica's excitement turned into apprehension however, when she contemplated how she would handle the expense of travel, tuition and purchase of dorm supplies. However, that all turned around when Kristen and the other counselors at Walkabout rallied to her side and not only raised $650 for dorm supplies and new clothes but they also obtained a donation from Jet Blue for a ticket to SUNY Buffalo so she could start college on time with her class!

"It can be tough seeing the way some of these kids struggle and what they go through,” says Counselor Ferrari, “but to see a young woman like Jessica utilize the services and become a success makes it all worthwhile. That is the reason we are here."

Nassau Haven and Walkabout for Young Men and Women are just two of the programs of Family & Children’s Association. Family & Children’s is dedicated to protecting and strengthening Long Island’s most vulnerable children, seniors, families, and communities. We offer assistance to those who are experiencing social, emotional, and economic challenges. In 2015, FCA provided help and hope to over 20,000 men, women and children in Nassau and Suffolk.

*Some names have been changed.

To learn more about Family & Children’s Walkabout for Young Men and Women visit: www.familyandchildrens.org/walkabout

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Nursery Co-op Program

Dear Miss Lynn, I am writing this letter in appreciation of your nursing program at Family and Children's Association. All of the teachers Lynn Vanderhall, Ana Castillo, and Anita Wilson were very professional in providing a caring and nurturing environment for my daughter, Isabella to learn. You were very helpful in advising me to get my child assessed for difficulties in speech and socializing in the class. You also helped me prepare for the CPSE meeting. Isabella has come such a long way just from being in the nursery program. It is because of all your help that my daughter will now be getting the services she needs to catch up and be the best that she can be. I can't thank you enough for your dedication. Sincerely, Maria Sosa (Mother of Isabella Polanco)

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Rent Assistance

Thank you so much for the assistance on my rent. I was in a rough patch in my life being a single mom with 2 boys. I appreciate all the attention and time you guys have given to my family. Connie Rodriquez has been an amazing support system. The time and effort she has taken to help my family has been unreal. My experience with this program has been nothing but amazing. I’ve worked with others and none helped me like you guys.

Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts.

Ms. E.

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SAGE Group

I was referred to FCA by Kings County Family Court after my arrest for assault with intent to harm and endangering the welfare of a child. I was arrested because I'd had an argument with my wife in front of my seven year old son. I blamed my wife for my arrest and for taking away my right to be with my son. I was furious with her and may have stepped over the line by spitting in her face, but I thought she over-reacted by calling the police. After all, I witnessed plenty of verbal and physical arguments between my own parents when I was growing up and no one called the police.

I wasn't happy about it, but I started attending your evening group known as SAGE (Spousal Abuse Group Education) and during the first few sessions I told the group about my wife’s betrayal. At first, I defended my right to be angry and dismissed any feedback I got to the contrary. Slowly, however, I began to listen and learn how my own thinking was dysfunctional and how it affected my behavior. I learned that blaming someone else and minimizing my aggressiveness would not help me become a better husband, father and man. I developed new skills in communicating and listening and also learned how to use breathing techniques to diminish my anger. Slowly, as I applied these new skills to my dealings with others, I received positive feedback and encouragement from co-workers, friends and the SAGE group. I actually found greater peace within myself and was able to show my family that I valued them and loved them enough to change. I continue to attend the SAGE group so that I can become the person I was meant to be and to be a better father and husband.

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Rebuilding Our Family

We were at a loss of how to deal with our son Branden, a boy we hardly recognized. The good student who laughed easily had become sullen and angry, missing school and ignoring curfews. We knew the yelling, grounding and punishments only made matters worse, but we were at our wits end. It was at our lowest point that we made the decision to seek help from the Nassau County court system and petitioned the court to supervise our son.  Thankfully we were directed to FCA instead. After meeting individually and as a family with your family specialist, we realized that we each had a lot of work to do. We learned how to implement simple strategies into our lives as a way of building stronger bonds with each other through trust, quality time and empathy. Your concept of “My Time” has helped us figure things out in a kinder, gentler manner. We were made to feel comfortable and not different from ‘normal’ families. Now that our counseling is ending, we wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done to help our family.

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Set for a Bright Future

Nachela came to us back in 2011 at the age of 14 because she was suffering from neglect: she was not enrolled in school and was not living in appropriate housing. She had just been removed from her home and placed in foster care when FCA welcomed her as a member of our Project Independence program. In keeping with our mission to help Long Island’s most vulnerable children, we assist children ages of 14-21 who are in foster care. Studies have shown that after exiting the foster care system at the age of majority (usually 18), many of these youth face serious problems, including homelessness, poverty, incarceration, early pregnancy, and unstable employment.

FCA works to ensure that Long Island’s children do not meet this same fate. We offer them a pathway to a new life of independence and success.

Continuation from August e-News:

Nachela flourished as part of our Project Independence program; she became part of a peer support group at her high school and participated in community service projects, mentored incoming freshmen and conducted school fundraisers. Now at 18, she is going off to college and because of her interest in giving back to others, has decided that “social work is the right career path for me.”

In recognition of her hard work and commitment to her future, she has been awarded a $1500/semester (plus book reimbursement) scholarship from Ronkonkoma-based Rothco (www.rothco.com). Rothco is also covering the cost of new luggage and the shipping of her things to her school. Nachela has worked at Starbucks since she was 16 and will be transferring to the Colorado-based branch near her school so she can continue working while attending classes.

Hard work, dedication, and help from FCA’s community of caring enabled Nachela to begin her new life. Won’t you help other children get the same chance? Donate today.

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My Life Matters

I am the only child of a teenage mother who was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia. During my childhood I felt depressed, worthless, misunderstood and ashamed; I had thoughts of suicide. I thought that suicide would bring me peace and that my absence would take the burden off my family.

I didn’t have many friends growing up because my mother separated me from my peers. I saw my mother being mistreated because of her condition and constantly worried about a future for my mother and me. I knew what my dad looked like, however he was never a father figure in my life. Then, my grandparents were granted custody of me by Family Court but living with them was uncertain and abusive.

Letters from the state began to arrive stating that my guardians would no longer receive benefits because I was turning the legal age of 18. I knew at some point my grandparents would ask me to leave, so I began to pack my belongings, feeling forsaken and alone. As my 18th birthday neared, one of my grandparents asked me where I was working. I replied McDonalds and Dollartree. He said those jobs were not sufficient to earn enough money for my keep and that there wasn’t enough room in the house for me and I have to leave.

The next morning I met my youth advocate at Social Services. I began to cry as I explained my situation, especially when I tried to talk about my future goals. She recommended I go to FCA’s emergency shelter known as Nassau Haven until I was able to find long-term stable housing.

Two hours later a staff member from Nassau Haven came to pick me up and immediately upon my arrival helped me make important calls regarding my health insurance. While there I kept busy by reading, making calls and working because I didn’t know what would happen next.

Then I heard a fellow resident explain FCA’s Walkabout, a place that teaches young people how to become independent while learning new skills and learning the importance of a good education. The next day I remembered talking to one of the counselors, and I wanted to know what I needed to do in order to transition to Walkabout. He said to me; “you have to be motivated, focused, and goals oriented.” I replied; “that’s it?” He said “yes, that’s it.”

To make a long story short, after a short period of stay at Nassau Haven, I went on an interview at Walkabout. When I arrived I noticed how clean and spacious it was and how comfortable the other residents were. The counselor and I talked for a long time and when it was time for me to go I cried all over again because I didn’t think I was going to be accepted, because there was a waiting list. I was worried that I would become homeless. A couple days later I was informed I was officially a resident at Walkabout and I felt a huge sense of relief. The day I moved into Walkabout, I felt a true sense of peace, I also had a feeling of being blessed and said to myself, “I will not let this opportunity go to waste!”

At Walkabout I learned resilience. I was taught how to cook, how to apply for college and jobs, how to dress for job interviews, and how to drive by going to driving school. I became stronger than ever!

I was shown compassion and experienced attention from caring adults. The staff often asked how I was doing and how I feeling. They inquired about my schoolwork and how things were going at work. I was able to experience joy and happiness for the first time in my life. Recently my 18-month stay at Walkabout came to an end and I was ready to move into my own room. Well, well, well! Let me tell you the truth, that transition was not an easy one for me! Who would want to leave true family behind? To me Walkabout was and still is a true family to me and many others.

During my long stay at Walkabout, I also learned the value of hard earned money! I saved over $18,000.00 to begin a new journey. I am currently at Nassau Community College and on target to graduate and transfer to a four year college.

Although I have moved out of Walkabout, the staff and I have maintained our connection. Here is a little secret: I really needed their support after I moved out. They continue to offer it and it has been invaluable. These people are like extended family and I really appreciate all they have done and continue to do in my life. Just in case I didn’t say it, thank you to all of the Walkabout staff, my FCA mentors, volunteers, and last, but not least, everyone who supports Family & Children’s Association. Keep-Up the great work you are doing and thank you again!!!

Click here to make a donation to help other young people build new lives.

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Keeping My Granddaughter Safe

My ten-year-old granddaughter Iyona lives with me, and sometimes she wishes she had her mother, father, sister and brother to play with. Her parents are not able to care for her because they’re dealing with various issues and Iyona was moved from her home to mine. As her parents work to bring their family back together, I try to make her feel loved and happy.

Last summer, Iyona attended summer camp for the first time thanks to a Family & Children’s Camp Scholarship and had an awesome time! She spent her days doing arts and crafts, theater activities, sports, and having fun outdoors. Iyona recalls that her favorite day was when a local petting zoo visited the camp bringing along some animals. The campers learned all about the animals and were able to pet and interact with them. Iyona was even brave enough to hold a large snake around her neck! She still talks about this day and insists that she wasn’t scared at all! Last fall, Iyona returned to school and was able to write all about her summer and all that she had seen and learned.

Thank you for your kindness in helping Iyona and other children enjoy a happy, carefree summer as their parents go to work, or work at becoming stronger, better parents.

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Getting Back to Normal

After giving birth to my third child, my joy quickly turned to fear when I was told that my new baby would require multiple surgeries to correct a birth defect. My whole world suddenly turned upside down. I had to resign from my job so I could accompany my infant to a maze of doctors' appointments and hospital visits, in order to help my baby get the care she needed. There was a lot of information I needed to absorb and I had to focus and make tough decisions. I knew I wouldn't be able to bring my other two small children along with me to all of these meetings. What was I going to do with them? Who would watch them?

Thankfully, the Nursery Co-op was there to care for my toddlers while I went back and forth to the hospital with my infant. They had an awesome time and each morning they asked to go back to school. I can't express how grateful I am for the help and knowing that they were being well cared for while my husband went to work and I navigated the world of medicine. I'm happy to report that our baby had several surgeries and is doing much better. We have a visiting nurse helping us now and things are beginning to feel normal again. I don’t know where we would be if it weren’t for your help and support.

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From Foster Child to Grateful Mom

I was placed in foster care at a very young age. I lived with my first foster family until the age of 10 when my foster care father passed away. I then moved to a wonderful family with whom I stayed until I became an adult. I consider myself very lucky to have such a wonderful family in my life, a family with whom I am still close to this day.

Over the years it was difficult to stay focused on the positives in life and to avoid negative feelings that result when a person feels unwanted by their birth parents. Then, when I had to move to a new family and change schools at the formidable age of 10, I felt a great burden and struggled to adjust to a new home and a new school. As a teenager, I struggled with some of these feelings and made some mistakes, but I always felt supported by my foster family who encouraged me to learn from every experience.

I decided to focus on the “what could be” scenario versus the “woe is me” mindset. On some level I knew that the “woe is me” mindset would set me back and lead to unhealthy choices. My brother who lived apart from me was in and out of jail over the years and I knew that I didn’t want that kind of life for myself. But, it was the help I received from your Project Independence that really saved my life.

I started attending Project Independence meetings and became involved in all the activities that you had to offer. The counselors enhanced my life by letting me know that I was worthy of love and support. They encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity that was open to me and to give myself the chance to succeed. I attended meetings and picnics and was even invited to speak at your ThanksGiving Ball in an effort to coax me out of my shell. “The system” that oversees children in foster care is very cold, but the counselors at Project Independence were warm, loving and turned out to be not a replacement of my foster family but an additional family that cared about me. Being in your program felt like a sigh of relief.

When I turned 18 and aged out of foster care, I was lucky enough to receive an offer from my Project Independence counselor to move to subsidized housing. This way I could try to find employment and live on my own. Or, she said I could go to college. College!? My foster mother and my counselor helped me with the applications and financial aid forms and off to college I went. It was a great opportunity that has shaped my career and led to my financial stability and family success. Today I am married and the mother of a beautiful six year old boy. I give him all the love and encouragement and tell him that he can be anything he wants to be, and I tell him that no dream is too big.

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Saving Our Family

For my family, the last fourteen weeks have been a rollercoaster ride and not the fun kind. We were at a loss of how to deal with our son Simon, a boy we hardly recognized anymore. The good student who laughed easily had become sullen and angry, missing school and ignoring curfews. We knew the yelling, grounding and punishments were only making matters worse, but we were at our wits end. It was at our lowest point that we made the decision to seek help from the Nassau County court system. What would happen to our son if we didn’t seek help? What would happen to him once he became part of the juvenile justice system? After many sleepless nights, we petitioned the court to supervise our son as part of their Person in Need of Supervision program (PINS).

We were surprised when our entire family was directed to FCA. After meeting individually and as a family with your family specialist, we realized that there was a lot of work to be done and not just by Simon. Each of us learned how to implement simple strategies into our lives as a way of building stronger bonds with each other through trust, quality time and empathy. Your concept of “My Time” has helped us figure things out in a kinder, gentler manner. Participating in your Strengthening Families program helped us re-evaluate each other and guided us through the difficult process of becoming a more united family, able to deal more effectively with our anger and our emotions. We were made to feel comfortable and not different from ‘normal’ families. Now that our program is ending, we wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done to help our family. We will miss you… but hopefully we won’t need to come back, except to say hello.

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Fleeing Violence

In 2006, my family made the difficult decision to leave our home in Iraq because of increasing violence and death threats. We had to leave everything we had behind as we struggled to escape a terrifying and escalating situation. Thankfully, after many months of waiting, we were accepted to come to the United States. It was the biggest relief I have ever felt in my life. We arrived in America in March of 2008. My uncle, who had lived here for ten years, sponsored us. I began a job at a supermarket as a deli clerk and, speaking very little English, found a one bedroom apartment for the four of us by convincing the landlord to rent to us without a security deposit. I had to work sixty-five hours a week at two different jobs to pay the rent with my brother because my parents could speak very little English and thus could not find jobs. All of my school records were lost so I had to apply for a high school equivalency diploma in order to further my education.

Thankfully, I was able to attend Family and Children’s Vocational Education program and attain my GED in November of 2008. I was then admitted to Nassau Community College in spring of 2009. Going to college and navigating the language barriers was extremely difficult but I earned a 3.94 cumulative GPA. After NCC I went to Columbia University to finish my undergraduate degree. Over the years I received scholarship funds from FCA that enabled me to continue with my education plus I was given the opportunity to meet several individuals who would become important role models in my life, including honoree Andrew Corrado, VP at Signature Bank. Mr. Corrado became my mentor and was instrumental in guiding me towards internships and teaching me strategies for creating opportunities for success.

Thanks to support from FCA, I will graduate shortly from Columbia University and will be on my way to an exciting career at Goldman Sachs.  I am grateful to Family & Children’s for the guidance, support and scholarships that enabled me to continue my education and realize my dreams.

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Finishing High School

I promised my daughter that one day I would finish high school and even though I’m 50 years old, I decided it was time to get my life straightened out; it hasn’t been easy. After years of relying on alcohol to make myself feel better, I had to learn to acknowledge the underlying problems that chipped away at my happiness. I also had to take a hard look at how my actions hurt those around me, especially my loved ones. Slowly I began to understand the cause and effect of my substance abuse and how if I wanted to live differently, I had to act differently.

I enrolled in your Vocational Ed program and started getting tutoring to help me in English and math. Slowly I improved in my studies and then my confidence started to improve about things like my appearance and the way I kept my home. Each day was like a new beginning, but it wasn’t always easy to string several good days together. With the help of my counselor and tutors, I’ve been able to remain sober for 14 months and am hoping to pass the high school equivalency exam and obtain my GED this coming spring.

Things are turning around for me thanks to everyone at FCA. I’m proof that you’re never too old to turn your life around.

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Fighting For My Country

I was 19 when I became homeless back in 2013. My dad, stepmom and I were fighting so much that they finally asked me to leave their house. I couldn’t go live with my birth mom because she left me and my stepbrothers and sisters in the care of my stepdad who travelled for a living, leaving us alone and unsupervised much of the time.

In the beginning, I spent time ‘couch surfing’ at friends’ houses and even slept at McDonald’s because they were open 24/7. Soon it became obvious to the kids at school and my advisor that something was wrong and my advisor suggested that I go to Nassau Haven, your emergency shelter. The staff was friendly and helped me sort out my situation and suggested that since I couldn’t go home, that I might want to live at Walkabout with other young people in similar situations. There were rules and curfews but I managed to adjust and took time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I tried college, worked at the Nautical Mile over the summer and finally decided that I wanted to fulfill a long-time dream to join the Marines. I enlisted and will go to Parris Island for boot camp. I reconciled with my family and am happy to be back on track with my plans for the future. I owe it all to FCA.

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Back On My Feet

When I was 70 years old, living alone and dealing with Diabetes, I fell and injured my neck and was placed on a ventilator for six weeks. I then spent a year in rehab due to injuries related to the fall and the frost-bite I contracted while in the military. During my hospital stay, I received wonderful advice: call Family & Children’s Association upon discharge. That was three years ago, and in that time despite my physical limitations, I’ve managed to get back on my feet with your help. I enjoy regular visits from a Family & Children’s case worker who is the kind of person who would do anything to help and I also receive a visit from one of your “chore workers” who helps me with household chores.

My entire mood and attitude about life improved because I am able to stay in my home and remain independent. My case worker is an amazing individual; if there’s anything she can do to help a human being in need, no matter the cost, she’ll do it. Family & Children’s will do anything to help seniors in Nassau County and without their help, the quality of my life would be much less than it is right now. I couldn’t survive without you.

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A Home Of Our Own

After years of suffering physical, financial, and emotional abuse from my husband, I finally found the strength to divorce him. After the divorce, however, I was unable to pay my bills and lost my home; suddenly becoming homeless with my two young children, one of whom suffers from Autism. All of this took a toll on my own health leaving me with multiple chronic medical conditions that limited my mobility and eventually forced me to resign from my job of over 10 years; I had hit rock bottom.

With your help, I was referred to a program that provided an in-home aid for me and my son including medical transportation as needed. Your contributions of clothing, food and back-to-school items for my children helped us to stay afloat while we awaited benefits from the Department of Social Services, Social Security and a local housing program. After 2 years of homelessness, we recently moved into a home of our own.   It’s hard to explain how proud I am of being able to take care of my children again thanks to the support and guidance you’ve given me. It changed my life and the lives of my children and I’ll be forever grateful.

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