Lewis County Opportunities, Inc.  •  8265 State Route 812  •  Lowville, NY  13367
Telephone:  315-376-8202  •  Fax:  315-376-8421  •  Location and Business Hours  •   Contact Us

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Welcome to Lewis County Opportunities


by Scott Mathys, Chief Executive Officer

picture of Scott Mathys, CEO

Our Agency Annual Report (2017)

by Scott Mathys, Chief Executive Officer

Lewis County Opportunities is a Community Action Agency incorporated in 1965. Our mission is working with people in need to promote a higher quality of life in our community. We envision a community where people are empowered to live safety without economic barriers. Our programs are a mix of those which address acute issues related to poverty or victimization, necessitating immediate response; and others which offer a long term approach to the chronic issues of poverty. The services we provide are selected by assessing the needs of the community and identifying priority areas to focus our combined efforts. In 2016 we conducted a Community Needs Assessment; which then set the foundation for the construction of our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. We then developed a work plan based upon available Federal, State, and local grants and private funding resources.

Poverty remains a complex social issue. The prevalence of poverty in any community is influenced by the number and type of available jobs, matching worker skills sets to the job market, the natural resources and infrastructure present in our region that can foster business growth or stagnate it, cost of living relative to labor market costs, and even individual personal accountability. Problems in any of those influence areas propagates into the visible symptoms of poverty; which includes old housing stock that continues to deteriorate, aging infrastructure that falls out of serviceability, higher unemployment rates, increased individual and family reliance on social service programs, and loss of hope. While certain society issues cross all economic levels, poverty can increase stress factors that contribute toward the presence of domestic violence, mental health struggles, and addictions. Ultimately, poverty touches the entire community whether a person is categorically identified as “low-income” through an arbitrary monetary standard or not.

I hope we can all agree that we shouldn’t sit back and allow our community to degrade. We don’t want to see our youth move far away to seek jobs. We don’t want to see our housing stock deteriorate or be abandoned. We don’t want to see people struggle to get by in their working years only to be worse off during retirement. Lewis County Opportunities is one of many agencies trying to make a positive impact on the people in our community. We want to be a helping hand for people struggling with challenges often out of their control. Below is a synopsis of our combined efforts throughout the community in 2017.

In 2017 our annual budget was approximately $2.5 million. Those revenues came from Federal and State grants, fee for service programs, foundations, our own unrestricted revenues, and through contributions from the community. Our “workforce” is comprised of 12 board members, 33 paid staff, and 151 volunteers. It took a combination of over 60,000 paid work hours and almost 14,000 volunteer hours to provide our community services last year. That represents a lot of linear and focused commitment toward our mission priorities. Last year we said goodbye to some of our co-workers; a few leaving for retirement and others who took their skills into other employment pursuits. We miss them and their dedication. Those departures brought in new faces to help fulfill our mission.

The following is a raw numeric summary of our services in 2017. Please look beyond the numbers because each number is a face in our community who needed help. You see these faces every day but may not know their internal struggle. When reading the data, please replace the raw numbers with the animated faces of men, women, and children; your neighbors and friends.

In 2017, we helped provide community programs to 5,705 people. Poverty isn’t gender-specific, but trending does tend to show an impact on females more than males; evident by females making up 57% of our consumer base. Poverty doesn’t discriminate by age and is felt throughout the entire age spectrum; evident by seniors making up 12% of our consumer base and children making up 36%. In addition, last year 25% of our consumer base reported some level of disability. Moving away from the general demographics, below are broad categorical direct service breakdowns:

  • Food Security: In 2017, food pantries located in New Bremen, Harrisville, Port Leyden, Croghan, and Copenhagen provided the equivalent of 58,635 meals to families. The buying power of the Food Bank of Central New York was essential in this effort. Likewise, the Northern New York Community Foundation was vital to the process by providing matching funds as well as additional contributions to the food pantries during the year. In addition, United Way of Northern New York comes through each year with an annual food drive. Many other groups in our community help the pantries out with food drives as well. We are appreciative of all those efforts!
  • Shelter: Safe and affordable housing can be a challenge for families in poverty. In 2017 Opportunities helped over 1,300 families in Jefferson and Lewis counties with rental assistance through Housing Choice Vouchers. That assistance totaled $8.1 million in landlord subsidies between both counties. Even if a family has a place to stay, the housing costs don’t end there. Runaway heating bills can erode the monthly budget drastically. Because of that, Opportunities provides weatherization services to help make homes more energy efficient. In 2017, over 50 homes were weatherized. This included replacing windows, furnace clean and tunes, and adding insulation in walls, attics, and crawl spaces. Funds for these services came from a grant through NYS Homes and Community Renewal. There are some members of our community who have no place at all to call home. We have a Homeless Apartment in partnership with Lewis County DSS to help with this concern. Last year that apartment temporarily housed people for a collective 894 bed nights.
  • Safety: People should not have to live in fear of physical, mental, financial, or sexual abuse. Unfortunately, such problems do exist even in Lewis County despite its reputation as a safe place to live and raise a family. To address victimization related to domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other crimes, Opportunities has a Victim Services program, which served 205 people in 2017. Under this program, the agency operates a safe dwelling where families can begin the next chapter in their lives; with 70 protected nights utilized during 2017. Other services include operating a 24/7 crisis hotline, providing many counseling services, completing orders of protection, and assisting victims with restitution claims. The program maintained a healthy presence in several local school districts with “safe dates” and “expect respect” education. The program also assists with a joint satellite Child Advocacy Center project spearheaded by our neighboring cohort-agency, the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County. Our Victim Services program is funded through the NYS Office of Victim Services, Department of Health, Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault, our local Department of Social Services, and private foundations. If you or someone you know has been a victim and needs help, please contact us at our crisis hotline number, 315-376-HELP, which is available 24 hours a day.
  • Transportation: Getting to and from work is as important as having a job in the first place; especially in a rural county. Sometimes car repairs can become costly enough to jeopardize maintaining a job. Therefore, Opportunities has programs to aid with paying for those costly repairs. In 2017, the agency helped pay for 33 vehicle repairs and/or gas cards. These services were made possible by the United Way of Northern New York and a Community Services Block Grant. In addition to a reliable vehicle, having safe and proper fitting car seats should not be something reserved only to families able to afford them. Because of that, Opportunities has 5 certified Car Seat Technicians who in 2017 provided 76 car seats to help our littlest county residents. This program was supported by Child Passenger Safety and CSBG grants.
  • Financial Security: We have routinely been asked about money management tips and classes to help build a better relationship with money. Many people in poverty are eager to take control of their money instead of being controlled by financial pressures. The agency provided Rep Payee services for 24 people.

The above items are just some of our many services. A comprehensive list would be impractical to provide in this article.  The most important concept to remember is that if you or someone you know could benefit from our assistance or want to know more about our other services, please “like” our Facebook page, call us at 315-376-8202, or visit our home page.  We are here to help.

In closing, we thank our employees, board members, volunteers, and the community for helping with our mission. Without the combined efforts of everyone, Opportunities wouldn’t be able to make such an impact to our community.  Thank you!

Scott Mathys, CEO 


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