Stopgap Services for Those in Need

Partnership offers programs to combat poverty

By Alison Rooney

The people who run the Community Action Partnership for Dutchess County are well known to police and fire officials, which is a good thing.

“When they go out on a call they can’t provide follow-up to a family, but we can,” said Elizabeth Spira, who is chief executive officer of the federally funded service organization, based in Poughkeepsie. “What they can do is tell them ‘someone from CAP will call you and help you get help.’  The police and firefighters see the conditions people are living in and it can be hard for them because they have no recourse, so it’s nice for them to feel they’re connected. Many say no the first time, but we don’t get discouraged because they often come around.  It can be hard to reveal things to a stranger, but we try to convince them that it’s worthwhile to review your options.”

Elizabeth Spira

The nonprofit’s mission is to improve the lives of Dutchess residents who live in poverty. It has five sites in the county, including in Beacon. The program is funded in part by a federal Community Services Block Grant distributed through the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We operate programs that will help families spend less or earn more,” said Spira. “The goal is to make them more self-sufficient. Our managers allow clients to ‘own it’ because it becomes much more precious to them than it would receiving a handout. We do have emergency services, but we then want to make sure they have other things in place.”

She added: “There’s a fine line between where financial assistance plugs a hole in a dam, but doesn’t solve the problem causing that hole. For example, when someone is behind on rent, we can pay one month but also call the landlord to work out a payment plan after that.”

What CAP Offers

Employment Case Management
Job searches, resumes, skills evaluation

Emergency assistance
Bills, medical, rent, utility bills, food, clothing

Health Insurance Coverage
Navigating enrollment

Prescription Assistance
Funding for medications

Medical Gap Care Fund
Financial emergency assistance for individuals in treatment for breast cancer for costs not covered by insurance

Care Fund Grant Program
Transportation, medication and financial assistance for individuals undergoing treatment for prostate and/or colon cancer, or other urologic and digestive issues

Dress For Success/Suited for Success
Clothing for employment interviews and jobs, as well as career coaching and mentoring.

Income Tax Assistance
Preparation of income-tax returns and counseling on the Earned Income Tax and child-care credits

Weatherization Assistance
Energy audits and energy-saving measures

Home Energy Assistance Program
Temporary emergency fuel, furnace repairs

Food Pantry
No cost to eligible families

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program
Matches between volunteers ages 55 and older and nonprofits who need assistance

The national Community Action Partnership network was established in 1964 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” initiative. Each state is given money to manage and distribute, and New York has established a CAP agency in nearly every county. (Putnam County residents are served by the Westchester Community Opportunity Program, which is based in White Plains and administers about 25 programs.)

The federal money is “not the beginning and end of funding but it’s the cornerstone,” Spira said. Assistance is tailored to the specific needs of the area being served. For example, in Beacon, the Office for the Aging administers an outreach program for homebound seniors and transportation to the local friendship center as well as a regular Wednesday shopping trip.

The Community Action Partnership’s Beacon office (Photo by A. Rooney)

Appointments are preferred at CAP’s Beacon office, located at 10 Eliza St., but the office also handle emergencies. “If critical, we don’t turn people away,” Spira said. Case managers interview clients and help determine which services are appropriate, as each program has its own income requirements. They can also provide referrals to other agencies, such as the Department of Social Services.

Case managers are trained to provide “wraparound care” in which more than one funding source can be utilized. They also share information with each other so “each advisor at any of the centers knows the client’s story and the client doesn’t have to tell it 15 times over again,” Spira said. “Sometimes a client just needs a partner who can help them. A conversation with a client advocate can help them push the door a bit harder. We have very committed people and a very organized program.”

For more information, visit or call the Beacon office at 845-831-2620. For the Westchester/Putnam office, visit or call 914-592-5600.

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