Since its establishment, Greater Syracuse Works (GSW) has helped leverage more than $10 million in state and federal grants to help community agencies provide employment and training opportunities for low-income residents in the Syracuse area.

It all started in 1997 when the Community Foundation convened local organizations who had applied for separate grants to fund job training programs. Instead of awarding grants for them to function separately, we saw an opportunity for the organizations to work together toward their common goal. This led to the creation of GSW, which helped the community win a $2.5 million competitive grant from the US Department of Labor in 1999. The grant was used to launch GSW’s signature project — the Parent Success Initiative — which offered low-income non-custodial parents work experiences to improve their employability, potential earnings and opportunities for advancement.

The network is still going strong. More than 20 community organizations collaborate through GSW, offering training and case management to those seeking employment or career enhancement.

“There are low income people and people in poverty that are forgotten about,” said Carol Hill, GSW board member and learning coordinator at SUNY Educational Opportunity Center. “GSW is all about connecting them back to the system and the resources that exist to help them.”

In 2011, GSW’s collective work paid off again when the Center for Community Alternatives was selected as the recipient of a monumental $5.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to enhance the Parent Success Initiative.

Participating parents who were once in arrears on their child support payments reported that they could now make good on their commitments to their children. By 2015, the program had connected nearly 800 people with jobs and generated at least $2 million in new child support payments.

A Community Foundation Performance Management grant enabled GSW to develop an online database system that allows partner organizations to share and report information across common fields. The most recent federal grant was awarded in part due to the partnerships and collaborative measurement GSW demonstrated.

“We were able to prove we had working partnerships that are bringing people together,” said Hill. “That started with the Community Foundation showing us how to break down barriers between agencies to share resources and trust each other.”