Sharon Space-Bamberger | Democrat
Gladys Walker in a rare moment of repose in her office. “Usually, I’m doing 5,000 things at once. There are so many details to take care of in my job.”
Executive director passes the torch
Story by Sharon Space-Bamberger
LIBERTY December 31, 2013 In 1974, Gladys Walker was hired for a three-month clerical position at Liberty’s Community Action Commission to Help the Economy (CACHE).
Those three months turned in 39 years, as since then, Walker has held various positions with the agency: parent aide, director of Outreach and Referral, board member and executive director.
During those three decades Walker has touched many lives, and her clients and employees will not forget her.
Recently, the dynamic director announced her retirement. Explaining her decision Walker said, “It’s time for me to move on, to do some of the things I’ve asked other people to do. It’s also important for CACHE to move on without Gladys Walker.”
Walker will pass the torch to Walter Stein, the agency’s Family-Development director, who has been with CACHE for 20. Walker told the Democrat, “Walter Stein will be the acting director and, if the board agrees with me, he will become executive director. I am impressed with how efficient and dedicated he has been as director of Family-Development.
“Walter is extremely knowledgeable about our client’s needs,” Walker added. “He has written many grants that have brought considerable funds to the agency. Walter is the person staff goes to and he is active in the community. I’ve relied on him, but we have not had the funds to hire him as deputy director. He brings excellent skills to the job and he needs to work directly with the Board and not be in my shadow.”
Walker explained the helping agency’s philosophy: “Respect for the client is primary. We work with people to empower them to meet their challenges. We meet them where they are at and help them to see they are coming forward. We also work well with other agencies and make referrals to help clients with additional needs.”
The public is most familiar with CACHE’s food pantry, the largest in Sullivan County. Other programs include CACHE’s domestic violence program, which helps battered women, children and men to reclaim their lives. Parenting classes teach clients the skills to become better parents. Weatherization helps stretch the heat dollar, especially with the cutbacks in HEAP. The not-for-profit thrift shop offers clothing and household items at nominal prices and will outfit families for free in emergency situations like a home fire.
The compassionate staff at CACHE understands just how hard life is for the poor. Walker revealed, “In my early days at Community Action, I used to go home and cry.”
Due to recent cuts in food stamps and the poor economy, CACHE’s food pantry now serves hundreds of people weekly.
Walker acknowledged, “We’ve been hit hard lately.”
Food Pantry Director Sue Waldman agreed. “I’ve had more and more people apply, people who have never sought aid before,” Waldman said. “Times have changed with the cutbacks and the layoffs. Most people are one paycheck away from poverty. When people lose their jobs they try to keep up. But, on a day like this you have to heat your house and the rent has to be paid; the one thing you can economize on is food.”
Food stamps were cut across the board and they find their way to us. We don’t turn people away; when they first come here they get one bag of food. After that, they must show identification and apply.”
The challenge for CACHE’s Food Pantry is funding for the additional needs. Walker was happy to report, “Governor Cuomo has come up with four and a half million dollars. We got the word from Aileen Gunther’s office that we will be getting a grant for $28,000 through the Department of Health. That grant will help us keep steady. The only catch is the grant has to be spent by March 1. I guarantee CACHE will have no problem doing that. We will purchase food through the Food Bank of the Hudson, you get the best bang for your buck there.”
Walker knows the agency she helped to grow is in capable hands. In her retirement she plans to do volunteer work. “I’ve had many challenges and a lot of tough days. I will go on to the next challenges.”