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Monthly Archives: March 2016

Signs of Spring on the Northside

Written by Liz Wierbinski  • March 31, 2016

Liz2Liz is a graduate of SUNY Albany with a master’s degree in Social Work. She’s currently working with NEHDA and Northside UP as our Community Prosperity AmeriCorps VISTA.

As part of our collaboration with NEHDA, we’ve asked her to write guest posts for us each month as she explores the Northside, its businesses and residents.  All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. You can learn more about the organization by visiting their website and Facebook






Work Train: “A Matchmaker for Employers and the Unemployed”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 30, 2016

Work Train

Photo credit: Dennis Nett

Another article from Syracuse.com‘s “The Cost of Poverty” further explores the gaps between job seeker and job opening. Marnie Eisenstadt interviews Kim Townsend, CEO of Loretto, to discuss her experience collaborating with Work Train, a platform that grew out of several workforce initiatives piloted on the Northside: Green Train and Health Train. The platform is housed within CenterState CEO, guided by a Collaborative of funders and workforce stakeholders and lead by Dominic Robinson, Vice President of Economic Inclusion & Director of Northside UP.


“A path out of poverty: How a Syracuse matchmaker united 100 people with an employer”


“Kim Townsend had a problem. Actually, she had 100 of them.

Townsend, the CEO of Loretto , needed to fill 100 certified nursing assistant jobs at Loretto’s Cottages in Cicero in a hurry.

“We had a staffing and recruiting crisis,” Townsend said.

With a workforce of 2,500 people, the health-care company knew how to recruit, screen applicants and fill jobs. But not that many jobs all at once.

Townsend wanted people who would be a good fit for the sometimes stressful and physically challenging job of nursing assistant. The low-skilled, relatively low-paying job has a high turnover rate. The price tag for Loretto to train the new workers was $180,000. They wanted to make sure workers stayed.

As the city of Syracuse struggles with poverty – nearly 50,000 people in the city are living at or below poverty – employers struggle to fill open positions. In March, the region had more than 5,000 open jobs.

The unemployed and employers have been struggling to fit together in this changing economy. The recruiting practices of entry-level and low-skilled employers sometimes miss the people who would eagerly take their jobs.

But even when the efforts do reach the job seekers, they often lack the right skills,

Enter Work Train, something of a matchmaker for employers and the unemployed.

Leaders from Loretto and Work Train put their heads together to think outside the lines. Where could they look for workers that they hadn’t been looking before? What barriers blocked people who might be good nursing assistants?

Work Train is part of CenterState CEO, a regional economic development agency. Over the past year, Work Train has recruited 130 employees. Of those, 113 have been placed in jobs. They helped fill all of Loretto’s openings, and are continuing to send employees their way, Townsend said.

Work Train started out in 2009 as a small operation aimed at working with St. Joseph’s Hospital Healthcare System to help refugees on Syracuse’s North Side find work. Since then, it has worked with 300 potential employees, placing 261 of them in jobs.”


To read the entire article, click here.

The northSide United Soccer Club: Sponsor a Player

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 29, 2016


Photo credit: www.instagram.com/yrministries

Yeshua Restoration Ministries‘ (YRM) Youth Soccer program “provides recreational, educational and leadership training and opportunities for urban youth” on the Northside. The YRM team, calls themselves the northSide United Soccer Club and is made up of boys between the ages of 10 and 16 from across nationalities and faiths.

What makes the Soccer Club different from others is not only their commitment to the game, but also their commitment to community service. With YRM, this component is mandatory for all players who must venture into the neighborhood to remove litter and snow, garden, or assist families with home improvements.

To lend your support to the northSide United Soccer Club and the students who make up the team, YRM asks the community to consider sponsoring a player for $50 a month. Visit their donate page to see the different ways you can give to YRM.

To stay up-to-date on the northSide United Soccer Club, follow them on social media through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Yeshua Restoration Ministries “is a grassroots, faith-based organization located
in the inner city of Syracuse’s northSide.  Its mission is to assist in the restoration
and equipping of individuals, families, and neighborhoods so they may better
participate as vital, contributing members of the community.”

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 25, 2016

Shadow 2

Troy Jackson’s Story: Syracuse.com’s “The Cost of Poverty” Series

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 23, 2016


Photo credit: Dennis Nett

Syracuse.com’s series “The Cost of Poverty” examines poverty in our city from a variety of different lenses. Marnie Eisenstadt’s latest piece, “Power of training: Former cocaine dealer sees hope for a better life on a factory floor,” is the story of Troy Jackson, a student training for a machinist job in the manufacturing industry.

“Troy Jackson was released from prison a year ago after serving two years on a drug charge. That trip to prison was his fourth and, he vowed, his last.

“I want to make sure I provide a secure foundation for me and my family,” Jackson said. “That’s long due.”

Jackson, 38, was the baby in a family of 10 kids on Syracuse’s South Side. After getting out of prison this last time, he found construction work here and there, but nothing steady.

So when he heard about a free program at Onondaga Community College that trains people for machinist jobs paying between $11 and $20 an hour, Jackson thought, “Why not?”

The program, a joint venture between OCC and CenterState CEO‘s Work Train, teaches people to be machine operators in factories. The idea that manufacturing is dead is a myth: Factories have jobs they cannot fill because they can’t find people with the right skills.

And Jackson, who dropped out of high school but earned his GED in prison, sees the factory floor as a doorway to a better life for himself and his family.”

To read the entire article, click here. For a full list of articles in the poverty series, click here.

Photo Friday: New Growth in the Freedom Garden

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 18, 2016


When Politics Was Personal

Written by Joe Russo  • March 17, 2016

Editor’s Note:  Joe Russo is a “Nortsider”, a retired teacher, and an aspiring writer. We’ve asked him to share his stories of the past and offer his perspective on the present and future of our neighborhood. His posts will appear each month under the category, “Old Times on the Northside.”

joe banner

One of the things I loved about the old Northside was that everyone knew everyone. Even when it came to politics the person running for office was the father or the son of someone very familiar. This was of course before social media. Eye contact and an actual conversation with the person sitting next to you were considered normal. I had lunch a couple weeks ago with Nick Pirro at the Franklin Grill on North Salina Street. It didn’t take long to start talking about the old Northside of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Nick first started out talking about spending time at the Cozy Retreat, everybody’s favorite hangout.

Nick lived on McBride Street just a block up the hill from Our Lady of Pompei School. One of the rights of passage for the Northside was that the older kids in the neighborhood walked the younger kids to school. Nick lived a couple of doors away from Joey DiMento. Joey’s older brother Louie was on the Safety Patrol and had to get to school early. Nick’s Mom informed him that he would have to walk young Joey to school. Nick of course complained and resisted but it was the 1950’s and when Momma told you to do something, you did it.

I wanted to hear about Nick’s early days in politics first as a County Supervisor, then as a Legislator and ultimately as the Onondaga County Executive. When Nick first began thinking about his campaign he sought advice about coming up with a memento he could leave with potential voters. Tarky Lombardi, an early mentor, recommended he put his name on a pot holder and hand them out. Not photos or pamphlets listing positions and accomplishments but a kitchen item. Well this was the northside, a neighborhood where most of the family time was spent in the kitchen. And right there hanging on the wall was a pot holder with Nick Pirro’s name on it. Nothing in the kitchen smelled or tasted better than Momma’s sauce. If you’re looking for positive thoughts being associated with a candidate’s name, then there really is nothing better than a pot of bubbling sauce under a pot holder with your name on it.

Walking through a neighborhood has its joys and its perils. During one of his reelection campaigns Nick came to a two story house with a dark hallway leading to a stairway that went to the second floor. He knocked on the door and gave out a holler to announce his arrival. Suddenly, he sensed something moving in the shadows. It was a dog moving quickly with malintent. Nick wasn’t able to exit quickly enough and close the door. The dog had his pant leg clinched in his teeth. The canine’s owner slowly came outside. And as he watched Nick struggle to shake the dog off his leg the owner dryly said, “don’t worry he doesn’t bite.” He, apparently, was not at all concerned that his dog’s teeth were locked on another man’s pants.

On another occasion Nick stepped up to the front door of a prospective voter, rang the doorbell, and leaned against a post holding up a small roof. As he waited the post moved and the roof tilted downward. Suddenly the door opened and there was the homeowner looking at Nick. Nick nervously held on to the post while waiting for the worst possible outcome. The homeowner, however, said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s been like that for a while.” Together they secured the post and the roof and Nick asked for the man’s vote.

Nick’s ability to maintain relationships in an environment where things often did not go as planned carried over to his day-to-day job first as a county supervisor, then as a legislator. After being elected the first thing Nick did was meet with all the department heads of city agencies. His purpose was to build a relationship before any problems popped up. As any old time Northsider will tell you one never knows where or when problems will happen. But if you remain calm solutions will find you. Sounds like a recipe for success.

On the Horizon for My Lucky Tummy: A Spring Popup and Plans for Penpal

Written by Liz Wierbinski  • March 16, 2016


Liz2Liz is a graduate of SUNY Albany with a master’s degree in Social Work. She’s currently working with NEHDA and Northside UP as our Community Prosperity AmeriCorps VISTA.

As part of our collaboration with NEHDA, we’ve asked her to write guest posts for us each month as she explores the Northside, its businesses and residents.  All of her posts can be found under the “NEHDA” category. You can learn more about the organization by visiting their website and Facebook



My Lucky Tummy image

What: My Lucky Tummy Spring Popup

When: Saturday, April 2nd

Where: All Saints Roman Catholic Church in the Bishop Harrison Center

1340 Lancaster Ave.

Syracuse, NY 13210


Twice a year, My Lucky Tummy hosts a popup food court showcasing dishes from all over the world. The chefs acquire a large portion of their ingredients from markets on the Northside, the list including many of the African, Asian, and Middle Eastern + Mediterranean shops featured on their map, “Northside Markets We Love.” This time around, the popup will feature homestyle cooking from Bhutan, Ghana, Pakistan, South Sudan, and a dessert from Syria. Plus, for an extra $10, you can take advantage of an Indian-themed cooking class with Sharada before she moves back to Bangalore!

Northside Markets

The excitement continues into the summer for My Lucky Tummy when they open Penpal, a teaching restaurant and entrepreneur incubator that will feature new and different national or regional cuisine every six months.*  Not only will Penpal train students in the restaurant industry, they will also help support and develop new, up-and-coming food entrepreneurs – all while sharing deliciously diverse cuisines from around the globe with their customers. The project is a partnership between Onondaga Community College, the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency, the Land Bank, Up Start (a program of CenterState CEO), and My Lucky Tummy. Exciting stuff!

Tickets for the April popup go on sale this Friday, March 18th for $25 each. Your ticket purchase corresponds with your arrival time – either 5:00, 6:00, or 7:00 PM – but stay as long as you like. They are limited to 125 per hour and sell out fast, so be sure to purchase your ticket as soon as possible.

If financial constraints are an issue or if you are looking for volunteer opportunities, contact Adam Sudmann at info@myluckytummy.com or 646-207-5683. All types of volunteers are welcome, but those that speak American Sign Language (ASL) or Arabic are specifically needed for this event.

To purchase tickets, click here. To stay up-to-date on the event, join the Facebook invite and make sure to “like” My Lucky Tummy’s page.

*OCC’s Food Service Management Program has been funded under a 2.5M United States Department of Labor TAACCCT Grant whose purpose is to facilitate greater employment by improving workforce education.  This program is an equal opportunity program; auxiliary aids are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.  For more information visit http://bit.ly/occ-taaccct-iv

Experience Food, Dance, and Music from Around the World at Hopeprint’s Culture Event

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 15, 2016


What: Culture 2016

When: Saturday, May 7 at 6:00 PM

Where: Sky Armory

Hopeprint‘s annual event, Culture, gives guests an opportunity to experience a variety of cultures through food, dance, art, and music. Comprised of a cocktail hour, a five-course meal, and a suite of performances, the event is inspired by a selection of nations once home to many of the refugees resettled in our city. Guests are also invited to Culture‘s afterparty which “will take things American-style with classic American food, dance floor and more.”

A new element to Culture is its Embassy Tables, which will represent some of the home countries of refugees in the United States. Guests also have the option of filling two of the table’s seats with members of the Hopeprint “family” who will acts as ambassadors from the table’s designated country.

To purchase tickets, click here. To stay up-to-date on the event, join the Facebook invite and make sure to “like” Hopeprint’s page.

Photo Friday: Rain Soaked

Written by Mary Beth Schwartzwalder  • March 11, 2016

Berries in the rain