By Jennifer Farnsworth
It has been a little over 40 years since a group of concerned adults and teens sat around a kitchen table in Clifton Park, putting together the pieces that would eventually form a human services program that has since transformed the lives of teens all over Saratoga County.
CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services supports youth, adults and families, giving them to tools be become self-sufficient and successful in life.
Sue Catroppa, executive director, said over the past 40 years they have grown into a $2.8 million organization with 65 full- and part-time employees, and between 300 and 400 volunteers. As a result of their continuing growth, CAPTAIN is in the final stages of a merger with Community Human Services (CHA), a 41-year-old agency located in Glenville.
Catroppa said CHS provides services that complement CAPTAIN’s.
“It is truly a good merger, and a great match,” said Catroppa.
Catroppa said CHS provides services to senior citizens and provides social services to the Burnt Hills school district, allowing CAPTAIN to expand its programs geographically. The merger was approved by the state and is on track to be completed by the end of the year.
Catroppa said she is excited about the forward momentum that the merger will bring.
“The needs [of clients] are always changing and growing, and together we can accomplish so many positive things,” said Catroppa.
One of the most important components of CAPTAIN is to manage youth shelters that provide emergency, short-term housing for youths who are on the streets, growing too old for foster care, or who are homeless.
CAPTAIN will partner with the Vecino Group, a development company looking to build an affordable housing project in Saratoga Springs. It will provide 10 units to use for transitional and housing for displaced young adults between the ages of 17 and 24, Catroppa said.
Its current Malta shelter provides a safe space for ages 13 to 17, for up to 30 days. During a teen’s stay, CAPTAIN provides counseling, tutoring, referrals, life skills training, after care and mediation.
Development and marketing manager Wendy Page said in addition to assisting homeless youth, CAPTAIN offers programs that tap into the many needs of teens and their families. Page said they deal with everything from simple daily needs to suicide prevention assistance.
She said there is a growing need in Saratoga County for these services and those needs are evolving, due to things like human trafficking and the heroine and opioid epidemic.
“Things are always changing, and we work to keep up with those needs. We have expanded exponentially, and we are positioned so that when needs arise, we can meet them,” said Page.
Some of the programs CAPTAIN include Street Outreach, Homework Help, Peace Camp, Community Education, Solutions to End Homelessness Program, a food pantry that provides up to a three-day supply of food and hygiene products and Getting Ahead, a 16-week program that helps people pull themselves out of poverty with a focus on long-term, sustainable success.
They also provide job assistance, a program to provide bicycles, summer meals, holiday help, respite, wellness and social work services. They are also the people behind CAPTAIN’s Treasures, a next-to-new store located in Clifton Park that sells gently used clothing and housewares with all profits supporting its programs.
Catroppa and Page are especially proud of CAPteens, a youth development program that focuses on building leadership skills, through helping others. Currently there are approximately 150 Shenendehowa High School students who provide help through answering the teen crisis lines, fundraising, and even providing hands-on assistance.
“These kids are out there doing Make a Wish events hosting Real Talk services, providing suicide prevention help. They are such an important part of our group. They do everything from answering math homework questions to helping a peer through a break-up,” said Catroppa.
Catroppa said CAPTAIN has thrived thanks to the good will, time and resources of thousands of people over the past 40 years.
“We have our wonderful staff, but it really is the volunteers that are the reason we are where we are,” she said.
To learn how to donate or volunteer, visit www.captaincares.org.