Cynthia Gilkeson

I joined CVH in 2012; the Chapter Organizer and I had a 1:1 meeting and she recruited me. I worked on the election campaign that year; going door to door, reminding people to vote. I’ve been involved with politics since I was 16. I try to get people motivated to fight for the poor and disenfranchised in Newburgh, and I try to get new members for CVH.

I have three kids age 17-20. I’m on disability due to mental health issues so I don’t currently work, but I’m going to school online—studying criminal justice with a human services concentration.

Late last year, I heard from my practitioner at the Newburgh Mental Health clinic that the facility was going to be closed and replaced by a forensic outpatient clinic. I called our Chapter Organizer and said we can’t let this clinic close—they have a relationship with me, and clinics in the area are just not as good. Newburgh Mental Health is a holistic clinic; it should be a model. I contacted Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney’s and Assemblyman Frank Skartados’ offices. Both said they were against the closing and would do everything in their power to keep the clinic open. I rallied other people and we met with Darcy Miller—the Orange County Health Commissioner—to give testimonials, and one of these people has since become a CVH member. Ultimately, the clinic was preserved. It might come under fire again, but we’ll be ready if it does!

Last year I was voted onto the CVH Board of Directors—it’s interesting; we meet every other month and we make decisions that affect the overall organization...all of our chapters and programs.

My goal is to try and build our Orange County Chapter to 20 core people by end of the year so we can have a group that meets regularly to surface what’s happening in the community. I meet up with people at the Department of Social Services and try to get them interested. It’s hard; people can be apathetic—they don’t think they have the power. Together with CVH, we can show them that doesn’t need to be the case. I can’t pinpoint how I’ll make it happen; I just talk about how their not participating hurts the community.