April 3, 2009

Caring Community Web site stresses sharing, networking

"There has been a flurry of activity this past month to help staff with the current economic times," notes Lynette Chappell-Williams, director of the Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality. "The Staff Retirement Incentive program has been a major focus of conversation among our older workers, and the Hardship Fund a more recent one."

Links to all these programs have been pulled together on a new Web site, "along with the many other resources, workshops and services that are available to the Cornell community to help with these tumultuous times. It is simply amazing how much Cornell community members help each other in times of difficulty," says Chappell-Williams. The new site, "Cornell's Caring Community," is at http://www.ohr.cornell.edu/caringCommunity.

The Hardship Fund was designed to provide one-time funds to address the recent rise in living expenses (rent or mortgage payments, commuting, utilities, tuition, ongoing medical expenses, etc.), or the loss of income due to layoff or military deployment. "The announcement of the Hardship Fund was met with an outpouring of Cornell community support to augment the funds provided by the university and extend the fund's reach to a greater number of those in need," says Chappell-Williams. Its application period begins April 13.

She also points to the recently announced Phased Retirement Program for staff and the rebranding of the Emergency Grant Fund, now named Cornellians Aiding and Responding to Emergencies (CARE). Offered by the Employee Assembly and funded through employee contributions, CARE was established in 2001 to offer financial assistance to employees with insufficient resources to deal with the immediate consequences of a disastrous or catastrophic event beyond their control.

"We are also starting up a new series of short teleconferences with the Employee Assistance Program, so that people have easy access to techniques and suggestions for managing change or stress," says Chappell-Williams.

So far the resources listed on the new Web site are primarily Cornell-based, ranging from workshops to help with finances offered by the Cornell Cooperative Extension to those offered by the Division of Human Resources on managing change or stress, to programs offered by the Wellness Program.

Also listed on the site is a support group for positive and resilient faculty and staff (or those who would like to be), meeting every other week, starting Tuesday, April 14, 4:30-6 p.m., 840 Hanshaw Road.

Soon to come is a blog of positive news for people who like to "look on the brighter side of life." The blog will be a good place to visit for a light-hearted moment or an oasis of quiet in an otherwise very busy spring semester.

Wanting to provide other avenues for Cornell staff and faculty to help each other, Chappell-Williams and the staff in WDELQ have also developed an e-list, MySavingsSolutions-L, to which anyone with a Cornell ID can subscribe. "The e-list provides a way for us all to share our tips on personal cost-saving ideas and our expertise in finding that special bargain," she says.