Ellen Stevens grew up in a large family and when her father became unemployed, she remembered Thanksgiving dinner coming from a local church.
"When that happened, I was hoping I could pay that back," she said.
As the newly appointed coordinator of PEACE Inc. County West, she has found her opportunity.
Having lived in Baldwinsville since 1984, Stevens became involved with PEACE first as a volunteer, then as chairperson of the board. She was hired as a PEACE family advocate, where she specialized in crisis intervention, developing partnerships with families and determining their dreams and goals. She spent three years in the position helping individuals and families who were having trouble paying rent, National Grid bills and obtaining food and clothing.
"Initially people come to us because they are finding it difficult to make ends meet," Stevens said.
Once at PEACE, family advocates identify avenues available to help families in need.
"We teach them to be self-sufficient. We don't do the calls, we just direct them where to go," she said.
Stevens was promoted to coordinator Dec. 1, when Elaine Sartwell, the former coordinator left.
"It was the natural transition for me," she said.
Since then, she has had her hands in a little bit of everything, familiarizing herself with the job.
She has also made some changes.
No more furniture
One of the unique programs at PEACE Inc. is the Treasure-Go-Round. Community members can donate clothing, small household appliances and more to the facility, and then those in need can browse through the donations and take what they need for free.
The program has proved successful as the Treasure-Go-Round has racks of clothing and shelves of items. A problem the center has run into is people leaving items after hours, especially in bad weather.
"People drop stuff off on weekends when we're not open, and with the best intentions, but if it rains or snows, things are ruined," Stevens said." We have to pay for things to be removed and we're operating on tight budget to begin with."