Community Services Consortium

Serving Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties in Oregon. Helping people. Changing lives.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

CSC Helps Couple to Achieve Their Goals and Independence

When they walked into Community Services Consortium’s (CSC) office two years ago, Ashley DeVries and Frank Aguilar had simple goals: a home to call their own for themselves and the baby they were expecting, stable employment, and reliable transportation.

Ashley was pregnant with Bobby and completing her senior year of high school at the Toledo alternative school, while working part-time at Mariner Square. Frank had graduated high school, was doing odd jobs for cash, and struggling to get his driver’s license so he could get a better job.

With no stable housing, they were shifting back and forth between Ashley’s grandma’s home and Frank’s dad’s trailer, with the added stress of securing rides to work and school and their “in-between” homes.

Ashley and Frank were excited to hear about CSC’s Youth Programs, which focus on helping participants complete their education while teaching them job-specific skills. They secured positions on the YouthBuild construction crew, where students gain construction skills and work experience by building, repairing or renovating houses for low-income families.

Ashley and Frank worked full-time for nine months on projects that taught them basic construction skills that they use today. Frank reported that they had “remodeled the bathroom at Dad’s house – we gutted the whole thing,” and Ashley used her mudding and painting skills on a repair project at work. 

“I loved the program,” Ashley said, “and if I could do it again, I would.” 

In addition to the construction crew, Frank successfully completed the 10-week Basic Welding course offered by CSC, which he says made him feel very successful.

“This was always my main thing, anything having to do with fusing metals. But when I took the course, it took a lot of effort to learn this skill. I realized that it wasn’t just fusing two pieces of metal; it was like an art, to bring two pieces that were never conjoined, to come together into one piece, and do it the same way every time and with your own unique style,” he shook his head, remembering.

“It took a lot of ‘mind strength’ you know: to show up early every day and work hard. And we weren’t getting paid, but we were getting paid in skills, not money.” Frank still has the goal of a permanent job as a welder.

Frank and Ashley were referred to CSC’s Housing & Emergency Assistance Department for help with their housing needs. They successfully completed the Tenant Assistance program, which helped them secure their first apartment and receive the guidance of a case manager to set goals. They both agree that the help this program gave them was invaluable.

Ashley commented, “It gave us a chance to get our first place and I was able to stay home with Bobby for his first eight months.” The structure of the program, especially the monitoring, “kept us on our toes, alert, and on top of everything,” said Frank, and helped them to stay on track with their goals.

They remarked specifically on the classes offered as part of the program—the energy class and the low-budget cooking class, which were very helpful. For Frank, being able to save to get his license back was a huge accomplishment. “Being in the program helped me pay off my fines and finally get my license,” Frank said, who now has his driver’s license and the freedom it brings.

Ashley and Frank recently moved to California, where they live close to Frank’s family. They have a house, and are expecting their second child. Frank is working and Ashley is a stay-at-home mom, which she loves. The young couple is truly a success due to their desire to improve their circumstances, their hard work, and the support of CSC’s skill-building programs that give young people tools for life!

To learn more about CSC’s programs and services visit us on the web at and like us on Facebook.

Smiling Faces Lights Up Head Start Volunteer's Day

This is a reprint of an article that first appeared in the April 12, 2013 edition of the Newport News-Times, authored by Dennis Anstine with photos by Dennis Anstine.

For Clyde Smith, it was an easy decision to donate his time to repair and maintain the building and grounds of the Head Start school site in Newport. It began with his marriage four years ago to Melissa Smith, who is a classroom teacher for the school. And it didn't hurt that he's retired and has an extensive background in horticulture and landscaping.

So when the Newport school moved into a building on the corner of Northeast Benton and First streets that desperately needed maintenance and upkeep, Smith figured two years ago that he had a long-term project that was perfect for a man with time on his hands.

"Head Start is federally funded for education only and there's no money for building or grounds maintenance," he said. "So, I pitched in."

The large school building was in decent shape, though landscaping was a problem.

"Around the sidewalks, the county had filled in holes in the chip rock and pavement with soil and planted clover all over the place," he said. "It just took off and there were bees everywhere, which isn't good for the kids in the playground. It took me eight hours to cut the grass the first time, and I still need to work on it regularly."

He's planted trees and shrubs around the building in an effort to beautify the landscape and eventually provide some protection to an area that is often besieged by the wind that regularly barrels out of the southwest.

Community donations to the landscape project have come from local families and several businesses, including tires donated by Les Schwab in Newport that Smith has crafted into a play structure.

On tap for this summer is a project to paint the building. Smith bought the paint and is having a friend apply it, charging only the labor cost.

One of the most difficult projects has been Smith's attempts to stabilize the chain-link fence that surrounds much of the large corner lot.

"About 140 feet of the fence was blown down flat," he said. "I've done some things to make it more stable, but short of putting some trees along it for protection it'll probably happen again. There's quite a wind coming through here during the winter."

Smith's landscaping work has been important since the Community Services Consortium, which runs the county's Child Development Services/ Head Start program, depends on volunteer work and donations even more these days than in previous years.

"Clyde is a very dedicated person and his in-kind help has been invaluable," said Suzanne Miller, director of the county program. "It wouldn't have gotten done without him and others."

There are about 160 children and families involved in the county Head Start program, including 60 in two classrooms in Newport. Lincoln City and Toledo also have schools.

The program's mission has gotten even more difficult to finance in recent months because of federal cuts.

"We're five months into our budget (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30) and in late February we found out that $46,454 would be cut out of our federal allocation because of the sequester," Miller said. "That's about 5 percent of our total budget of $950,000 (including state funds). That's six students and families that we can't serve, though we have found a way to weather the storm."

The program will shave three days off the school year, an action the federal government will allow. And some staff members will be put on call, cutting the normal full and part-time staff from 32 to 23, Miller said.

Head Start, she added, is used to getting by with the help of others and the new cuts are just another challenge. Clyde Smith said he'll do whatever he can to help because of the need. Plus, he enjoys it.

"It's great to see the happy faces and enthusiasm of those kids every day," he said. "The school needs help so the kids can have a neat place to go. That's my payoff for helping out."

Energy Program Brings Decades of Savings to Linn County

Did you know that some Linn County residents save an average of $437 per year on energy for homes weatherized under Community Services Consortium’s (CSC) Weatherization Assistance Program? Started in 1979, Weatherization Services in Linn County continue today with the Community Services Consortium, the Mid-Willamette Valley’s Community Action Agency.
“The demand for weatherization services has not changed, crews continue to work to keep up and the applications keep coming in,” says Steve Jole, CSC Weatherization Supervisor.

But changes in technology over the years have improved services. Today, like taking a modern car into the shop, Weatherization crews use testing equipment to get a complete picture of a home’s energy performance before beginning work, identifying areas of the greatest savings and priority concerns such as safety and health. When compared to test results after the work is complete, weatherization crews know the impact of the measures installed.
While there are a number of utility programs that encourage most Oregonians to save energy, CSC offers energy-saving tools to those who need it most. Many homeowners and renters begin by enrolling in CSC's Energy Assistance Program and Energy Education Programs to learn about how to use their homes most efficiently, while at the same time getting into the Weatherization Assistance Program for energy-efficiency work. The partnership among these programs makes for a straightforward, one-stop shop for those seeking improvement of their living conditions and reducing their utility bills.

While watching their utility bills drop, homeowners also see comfortable temperatures in the winter, and may see their appliances work properly again or in some cases, replaced. For one resident, this meant having ice cream instead of goo - a big bonus. In some cases it’s much more urgent, such as in the case of having no heat at all. Energy-efficient measures and improvements can range from insulation, weather stripping, installation of mechanical ventilation and carbon monoxide detectors, to the replacement of inefficient refrigerators.
The Weatherization Assistance Program has also taken part in renewable energy efforts in the 1980’s and again in 2010 to install solar greenhouses with more than 250 kilowatts of combined solar panels, including sites for FISH of Albany, Albany Helping Hands and Shangri La homes for the Disabled.

While renewable energy is important, energy conservation must come first. Says a US Department of Energy consultant, "We can’t have our renewable energy dessert without having our conservation vegetables first."

The CSC Weatherization program also offers experience to crew members who take jobs in the fields of renewable and energy conservation sector.

The program also embarks on large projects in partnership with area shelters, multifamily housing facilities and more. In 2013, the Weatherization Program is offering Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services of Corvallis assistance for measures on each of the 51 units being rehabbed at the Lancaster Bridge apartments near Conifer Boulevard in Corvallis. The assistance provides support for measures to be included that meet the program's health and safety guidelines.

Measures include under-floor installation tightly fastened to the joists meeting the subfloor, low energy using bathroom exhaust fans, and the installation of efficient windows that exceed building code. Other pending projects include the replacement of an outdated boiler furnace and controls with a new state-of-the-art, high-efficiency boiler and modern controls for the Corvallis-based social service agency, Community Outreach Inc.

All together over these 33 years, nationwide, 6.4 million families have been served in the Weatherization Program, and the need continues as strongly today as before. These projects are run in addition to services provided to individuals throughout Linn County and CSC's larger service area.

Applications for Weatherization services are available at CSC. Completed applications are reviewed to determine if a family or individual qualifies for the program. CSC welcomes income requirements inquiries by phone, and they can also be found online at If you are interested in receiving Weatherization services, please call CSC at 541-758-2627.

CSC Youth Garden Featured in the Corvallis Advocate

Photo by Bridget Egan
The CSC Youth Garden has been featured in the May 30, 2013 issue of the Corvallis Advocate. Reporter Bridget Egan talked with CSC's Sharee Cooper, Armand Schoppy, and Sean Larsen, as well as youth workers Kayla and Austin.

The article highlights the youth workers' skill in the garden and at the Farmer's Market, as what they have been accomplishing with their educations.

The article also mentions the Youth Garden's partnership with the Trillium Children’s Farm Home in Corvallis, which will allow the Youth Garden to farm a half acre on the Farm Home's 50-acre campus. Some of the food will go to the Farm Home, some of it will go to the Linn-Benton Food Share, and the rest will be sold at market.

Many thanks to the Corvallis Advocate for highlighting our wonderful CSC Youth Garden and all of the people that keep this successful program going!

To read the story, click here

Monday, May 27, 2013

CSC Helps to Keep People in Their Homes

For most individuals and families, the biggest investment they will ever make is in their homes. Holding on to and maintaining that investment can be a challenge at any time, but in recent years, this investment has come under attack, as people have been laid off and remained unemployed in record numbers.

Unable to pay their mortgages, families have used up their savings and in the end have faced foreclosures. Jon Polansky’s mission is to explain the foreclosure process and possible alternatives to foreclosure.

As CSC’s Mortgage Counselor, Jon has helped countless families with the daunting task of negotiating and fighting to stay in their homes. “Solutions to problems are often buried in paperwork, unable to be interpreted by the homeowner, and missed by the lender,” said Polansky.
CSC Mortgage
Counselor John Polansky

In Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties, CSC has assisted 405 families with mortgage payments to keep their homes. In one case, a 58-year old Linn county man had depleted his 401k and was afraid to contact his mortgage loan servicer of ten years. Polansky encouraged him to come into the office and together, they contacted the loan servicer. 

The collection department had no solution since he had no income. They called customer service, asked some probing questions, and found the man had paid his loan twice a month for ten years. It pushed the paid-through date to the summer of the following year.

Polansky also recalled the example of an elderly woman that was three months behind in paying her mortgage. She had no savings, but qualified for a reverse equity mortgage, which would allow her to stay in the home she has lived in for 32 years.

However, a credit card judgment appeared after the loan closing papers were prepared. The law firm representing the credit card company wanted to be paid before the loan closed. The loan would have provided the elderly woman with the money she lacked to pay the judgment.

The law firm refused her request to wait until the loan closed. After looking for help, she was referred to CSC’s mortgage counseling program and contacted Polansky. Polansky called one of the firm’s partners on her behalf and the issue was resolved in her favor within three business days. With CSC’s help, the woman was able to satisfy the judgment and remain in her home.

If you are struggling to stay in your home, CSC’s Housing Services may be able to help. Contact us at 866-245-1780.

Garden Gnome Run a Success with Nearly 150 Participants

Photos by Paul Deatherage

The first annual Garden Gnome Run was a smashing success, drawing 142 participants running and walking to raise money for the CSC Youth Garden.

After the hard work was over, garden-grown goodies were available and participants even got to take home a tomato plant.

Race results can be viewed here.

The Youth Garden employs four to ten youth who are enrolled in our federal workforce program. They are responsible for caring for 40 raised beds without the use of herbicides or pesticides. The Youth Garden’s mission is to encourage learning, entrepreneurship and work readiness in Benton County youth and to grow and locally-distribute responsibly-raised produce.

Funds raised from the run will go towards much-needed improvements to the garden including re-covering a greenhouse, installing a water catchment system, and a new hoop house.

CSC and the Youth Garden would like to thank all of the participants and spectators, as well as the generous sponsors that made the event possible.

Citizens Bank

No Dinx, Inc. 
Eco Home Comfort 

John’s Automotive Repair

Welcome to CSC's blog and e-newsletter!

These communications tools can be used to make announcements, acknowledge donors and volunteers, post videos and slideshows–whatever we want to share with our online community.

There are 3 ways to deliver info to stakeholders:

  1. The blog itself, which can be linked to our current website
  2. Email news blasts (blog articles sent via email as eNewsletters)
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We're excited about these communication tools and look forward to both your input and feedback for continuing improvement and positive information-sharing.

If you have agency/program information you'd like posted on this blog, please send full text and/or photos and videos, ideas, or suggestions to Janet Hessel and she will take the next steps.