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Grantee Stories

Expanding Library Walls: Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury Unveils Storymobile

  • Did you know that Waterbury, Connecticut—a city of about 109,000 people—has just two public libraries? The main Silas Bronson Library has just one branch, Bunker Hill.

    Often vital hubs of community engagement, libraries are safe, important gathering spaces for residents to meet, take classes, access the internet to obtain services, hunt for jobs, and much more. And, libraries are key touchstones for parents as they help their children learn to read.

    According to Tina Agati, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, “Unfortunately, many of the families we meet do not use the public libraries. Without access to age-appropriate books and reading materials especially during the summer, children’s literacy suffers and leads to the loss of learning known as the ‘summer slide.’”

  • In February 2017, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, in partnership with many community organizations including the Waterbury Police Activity League, unveiled a Storymobile. Outfitted with shelves of new and gently used books appropriate for children through grade eight, the colorful, inviting trailer will distribute thousands of free books to area children, particularly those of low-incomes.

    Said Agati, “Our goals are to expand the walls of the public libraries, give children more access to books, promote programs at the Silas Bronson library and encourage a lifelong love of learning.”

    The Storymobile will meet children at places such as park and recreation programs, apartment complexes, summer camps, and family movie nights throughout Greater Waterbury.

  • Agati projected that the Storymobile will distribute 7,500 books to several thousand children in 2017. Up until now, Agati and her dedicated team—including Vanessa Vowe, Kelly Pinho and Stephanie Cummings—had been distributing the books out of the trunks of their cars, which were often collected via used book drives.

    Connecticut Community Foundation’s online giving event, Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills, was instrumental in filling the Storymobile’s shelves. Last year’s Give Local event netted Literacy Volunteers over $3,000, which was used exclusively to purchase books for the new trailer. Literacy Volunteers is also getting an updated website, funded in part through a grant from the Foundation.

  • The need for books is ongoing and Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury is participating again in Give Local to raise funds. A $25 donation buys five to ten new books, said Agati.

    In biweekly visits to housing complexes last summer, Agati had children waiting for her; they knew books would be delivered that day.

    She said, “To have kids waiting for us was awesome. And having a stockpile of new books so that they can choose their favorites is even better.”

    All donations to nonprofit organizations at www.GiveLocalCCF.org during Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills will be boosted by bonus funds and cash prizes. Let’s give back, give together and give more on April 25 and 26!

    View photos of Storymobile ribbon-cutting event

Give Local Gives Main Street Ballet a New Dance Floor

  • When the cast of Main Street Ballet in Woodbury was rehearsing last spring for their production of Giselle, the leading man was running across the stage. Or, attempting to run. The problem was, his feet kept going out from under him; the floor had no traction so running became more of a slide.

    Main Street Ballet had been around for decades (next year will be their 30th year performing The Nutcracker), but while their performances over the years had gotten more refined, their dance floor had not.

    The wear and tear of practicing and performing two full-stage ballet performances each year and increased numbers of participants and workshops had taken their toll, and the worn floor was putting dancers at risk for injury.

  • Said Andrea Usami, grants coordinator at Main Street Ballet, “A new dance floor was a really pressing need of ours but we needed people to come together and help us. We couldn’t easily raise almost $7,000 for the new floor ourselves.” Fees and ticket sales are the ballet’s primary sources of funding, but they rely on those revenues simply to make ends meet.

    Now, one year after sliding through Giselle performances, Main Street Ballet has a gleaming new dance floor thanks to Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills. In just their first year participating in Give Local, they raised $8,000 from 136 enthusiastic donors through a campaign they largely powered through email and social media. And, they won two prizes thanks to local business sponsors.

  • The new floor has layers of special foam that springs and provides just the right amount of traction. It protects dancers—especially from ankle injuries. And, the floor can be rolled up and moved from their practice space in Woodbury to their main performance space at Pomperaug High School in Southbury.

    Usami said, “The floor is something precious to our dancers. You can see by the way they care for it now.”

    It’s also quite literally the “ground floor” (and grounding floor!) for Main Street’s mission.

    “We are supporting and preparing young people for professional careers,” Usami said, “but the greater majority of our dancers don’t want to become professionals."

  • Added Usami, "The dancers are taught to be leaders and mentors to others, to be creative, and to understand and be comfortable with their bodies….We are a safe and supportive space for young people to learn to express themselves.”

    Main Street Ballet is already setting their sights on Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills on April 25-26. Their goal? New costumes—for angels and mice!

    View photos of Main Street Ballet (and their new dance floor!) Photos by Steve Seymour, Essennelle Studios

    Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills will be held on April 25-26, 2017. Learn more at www.GiveLocalCCF.org.

A new Cheshire Community Food Pantry

UnGroup Society Injects New Energy and Volunteerism in Waterbury

  • Growing up in Waterbury, Warren Leach experienced the city’s neighborhoods as “full of music and joy.” Block parties, summer basketball leagues, a theater group where young people built the risers and sound system for the productions. Best of all, his summer job as a teenager took him all over Waterbury accompanying kids on field trips to parks and attractions.

    Said Leach, “As the oldest of five, I had a tremendous sense of pride in earning money, helping my family pay for school clothes, and looking after other kids in the neighborhood on field trips. We had a sense of responsibility for taking care of ourselves and younger kids and being an example.”

    Decades later, over a revelatory meal, he and his friends decided “there’s nobody stopping the people at this table from having the block parties and all the things we remembered growing up.”

    The UnGroup Society was born.

  • Said Leach, “The Ungroup Society was put together as a very loosely knit group that is not stuck in or pinned into any particular cause or purpose. So, anybody with an idea can get together with like-minded people with a diverse set of skills…identify community issues, and act positively to change them.”

    UnGroup member Rhonda Hunter Gatling proposed a clothing drive for homeless people; three years later, UnGroup collected 35-40 boxes of clothes that were given to hundreds of people.

    Rhonda and UnGroup grew the idea and began collecting gently used prom dresses for girls who might not attend their prom due to financial hardships. Two clothing drives later, they collected over 500 gowns that were given away to Waterbury girls.

    UnGroup has also organized community policing forums, youth field trips, and Black History Month celebrations.

  • Two grants from Connecticut Community Foundation’s grassroots grant program jumpstarted UnGroup Society’s efforts. Intended for emerging community leaders in Waterbury, the grants fund small projects that help Waterbury residents make their ideas a reality for creating positive changes in their neighborhoods. Unlike other Foundation grants, grassroots funding is not contingent on a group being organized as a 501(c)(3) under the IRS code.

    In late August 2016, led by the indomitable Leach, UnGroup hosted a “Spirit of Unity” concert for youth empowerment at the Silas Bronson Library Park. Funded in part by the Foundation, the event was timed to shine a light on the importance of literacy and engage parents in reading to their kids. Over 20 local youth, health, and human services groups were on hand, as well as musicians and a few thousand attendees.

    “It was awesome,” said Leach.

  • What does the future hold?

    Leach is planning a website so UnGroup is more visible to the community and so it is easier for people to find the group and get involved. There is also a health and wellness initiative underway focused on nutrition, exercise, and disease prevention.

    Said Leach, “We need to take our skills—whether it’s resume writing or building a porch for someone—and support each other rather than turning a blind eye to each other’s needs.”

    Learn more about Connecticut Community Foundation’s grant programs.

    [Photos courtesy of Warren Leach]

Waterbury Community Leaders Develop Parent Advocates

  • Liz Bullard’s mother Beverly wanted the 26-year old to get involved in the community, but what stood between her daughter and an all-expense paid trip to a national community leadership conference in Kentucky was a terrifying plane ride.

    Says Liz, "I really hate to fly."

    She went with trepidation, and came back brimming with ideas for community organizing in her hometown of Waterbury.

    Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury (NHS) had made the trip possible, and Eden Brown, community building and engagement specialist at NHS, helped Liz and other eager organizers MaLisa Blasini, Erika Cooper, Sophia Torres, KimKelly Meyers, Tristan White, and Amy Petruzzi craft an action plan around their common ideas and concerns. Each lives or works in Waterbury (Bullard is a case manager at the Salvation Army).

  • Bullard’s group, who call themselves the “Waterbury Community Leaders,” felt that parents in the city often lacked knowledge about local resources to solve common problems (such as housing disputes), navigate systems of government or schools, and effectively engage in electoral and political processes (such as analyzing candidates or lobbying elected officials on issues of concern).

    They endeavored to train interested parents in concrete strategies so they could be better advocates for themselves and their children. The group created a 6-session series of workshops (titled “The Parent Project”) on topics including budgeting, home ownership and rental housing, healthy nutrition, and civic engagement.

  • Bullard then turned to Connecticut Community Foundation to fund the project through its grassroots grant program. Through this program, the Foundation makes small grants available to Waterbury residents who have ideas and a plan for making positive changes in their neighborhoods. Residents do not need to organize as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to apply.

    Grant in hand, the Parent Project launched this fall as a pilot program with six parents participating. Community leaders with expertise in the various topic areas were the trainers. In many ways, the participants are people who have wanted to make changes— to crosswalks, the schools, etc.— but didn’t know the tangible steps to achieving results.

    “From reaching out to the mayor’s office to voting to attending board of education meetings,” said Bullard, “the class is learning those basic things and becoming more comfortable in how to make the changes that they want to see.”

  • Bullard, NHS, and the other Waterbury community leaders are already looking ahead to build on the Parent Project, perhaps by conducting the workshops for parents of children with special needs.

    Any advice for other Waterbury residents?

    Said Bullard, “If you want to see something happen, you have to go out there and get it. You have to be willing to fail, willing to try, and you have to get out there with other people…When you open up to different cultures, people, and experiences --- your doors open. If I would have stayed closed in, I would have missed out on everything.”

    “Tell people not to let fears stop you,” she added.

    Learn more about Connecticut Community Foundation’s grant programs.

    [Photos by Neighborhood Housing Services]

An Oasis for Hispanic Older Adults

  • Grantee Spotlight: Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury


    Yoga. Zumba. Guitar lessons. Computer training. Meals.

    If this sounds like an evening after class on a busy college campus, think again: It’s a typical day at the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury’s community center on East Liberty Street, where older adults from 60 to 93 find that age is no barrier to new skills.

    We dropped in on a guitar class in early August while budding musicians in their 60s, 70s and 80s strummed guitars, learned chords, and read sheet music—when just months before these same things were very challenging.

  • “Some of [the participants] were hesitant when they first started out,” said Mira LeVasseur, program coordinator for Bringing Resources to Action to Serve Seniors (BRASS). Now, she says, “They have a newfound sense of confidence because they realize they really can learn something new.” For participants with arthritis, she added, playing the guitar can provide some relief through exercising fingers.

    “They are very interested and willing to learn,” said 77-year old Juan Marrero, class instructor. “Since the start I have told them: this is not easy; it’s fun, but it’s not easy,” Marrero said.

    Marrero hopes that the beginner class will be able to learn Christmas songs by December. “That is our goal because…we are Puerto Ricans, and Christmas time in Puerto Rico is like a big party,” Marrero said.

  • “Everyone there sings, dances, and knows how to play the guitar,” he added.

    Grant funding for the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury’s programs serving older adults is made possible through the Connecticut Community Foundation’s East Hill Woods Fund. Established in November 2009 with the largest contribution ever received by the Foundation, the Fund now provides grants to nonprofits and municipalities serving older adults throughout the Foundation’s 21-town area.

    The Fund was instrumental in the creation of Waterbury BRASS, a citywide collaboration bringing opportunities, programs and information to Waterbury residents ages 60 and over. The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury is a key BRASS collaborator.

  • “We like to think of BRASS as a senior center without walls,” said LeVasseur. The programs and services reach older adults at nine locations throughout Waterbury.“Waterbury was really lacking in support for senior services before the Connecticut Community Foundation got involved,” she added. “Everyone had fragmented systems and many senior centers were struggling.”

    Through BRASS, the Hispanic Coalition has also provided meals to older adults at the community center, but is facing many challenges due to state budget shortfalls.

    “There have been reductions in senior nutrition services,” said LeVasseur. “This particular site receives no meals on Wednesdays any longer. If you imagine, it’s like sending a child to school and being told he or she can’t be fed that day.”

  • The Coalition is teaming with Brass City Harvest to find creative ways to provide nutrition to older adults who need it.

    Indeed, the Coalition’s assistance and outreach to older adults are vital—sometimes in unexpected but profound ways. For example, one computer class participant reconnected with her family through Skype. Using skills learned at the center, the woman was able to video chat with relatives in Peru she had not seen in many years.

    “It was a very emotional moment. It took several minutes before anyone could speak because the family was so caught up in their emotions,” said LeVasseur.

    That’s music to our ears.

    View photos.

A Summer of Song for Waterbury Youngsters

  • Bravo! Waterbury's Summer Program

    On a hot, stuffy summer afternoon in the Children’s Community School in Waterbury, clear voices filled the halls with song.

    Children immersed in musical training were practicing together—which they do three hours a day, four days a week—as part of Bravo! Waterbury’s summer program.

    The program, run by Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, is funded in part by Connecticut Community Foundation and is an extension of the Bravo! after school program that has trained up to 200 children a year in grades kindergarten through sixth since 2012. Students sing together in a choir, learn an orchestral musical instrument, play in a “bucket band” together, and receive academic assistance from tutors—all the while developing critical social skills.

  • “The summer piece of Bravo! is so crucial because without these three months of consistency and spending time with peers, a lot of learning would be lost,” said Calida Jones, a professional violinist and artistic program director of Bravo! Waterbury. The summer program allows youngsters to better focus on their instruments without other distractions.

    Through Bravo!, participants also learn to persevere despite the problems they may face outside of school.

    “To be truthful, they have a lot of extraordinary challenges they are forced to deal with every day,” said Jones. “They play their instruments through pain, loss, sadness…But we don’t want those struggles to become barriers here.”

  • “Our job,” said Jones, “is to protect the kids and give them a safe space to feel free to create and express themselves.”

    Bravo!, inspired by Venezuela’s “music education miracle” known as El Sistema, offers children high quality musical training and a unique, nurturing environment that develops their social skills.

    “The method is simple,” said Jones. “Practicing music together for as many hours as possible builds community. We spend a lot of time together—playing music and even going to the park or for a walk. The time together builds the orchestra and makes a community. It changes our sound.”

  • Through the intensity, fun, and structure of the program, barriers fall down. Jones sees Bravo! children develop not only musical skills, but communication and coping skills, assertiveness, and confidence that spill over to their academic work and interpersonal interactions.

    “They are able to learn conflict resolution by using their mouths and not their hands,” she said.

    Bravo! students have performed in the state and around the country, including the East Coast Seminario in North Carolina and with the children’s orchestras at Yale University in New Haven.

  • Through Bravo!, they have learned the importance of teamwork and forming close bonds with others. Importantly, says Jones, musical education through Bravo! also helps youngsters dream big.

    “I want each child to think, ‘I can do this! I will do this! I can do something big,’” said Jones.

    Yes, they can.

    View photos

    View video

    Find out how you can support children like those participating in Bravo! Waterbury. Contact us about starting a fund at the Foundation! jloughran@conncf.org

A River Renewed

  • Tires. Mattresses. Bottles. Refrigerators. Carpets. For decades, they’ve been submerged in the Naugatuck River and polluting the adjacent riverbanks, depriving local communities of fully enjoying a prime natural resource.

    That all changed on April 2, when Steve Casey of The Railroad Museum of New England and Kevin Zak of the Naugatuck River Revival Group (NRRG) coordinated 70+ volunteers from three states in removing over 300 tires and enough trash to fill two 30 cubic yard dumpsters, adding to the 420 tires they removed in March.

  • The truly unique undertaking made use of Naugatuck Railroad to cart volunteers and debris to various locations along the cleanup route. Made possible through a $5,200 grant from Connecticut Community Foundation, “The Great Naugatuck River and Naugatuck Railroad Clean-up” involved volunteers from small businesses, nonprofits, and Wolcott’s Boy Scout Troop 230 side-by-side, scouring the brush and riverbank and hauling trash and tires onto Naugatuck Railroad’s flatcar and dump car. The debris was then transported to dumpsters and ultimately recycled.

  • Said Josh Carey, the Foundation’s Director of Grants Management, “The amazing volunteer turnout for the cleanup shows the pride that local residents take in the places where they live, and their desire to restore and protect this precious and long-neglected resource.”

  • “It was magic,” said Zak. “One day at a time and one piece of trash at a time is how we are going to clean up what was left to us by environmental indifference...Because of all these volunteers and many other cleanup efforts from Torrington to Derby, we are raising the bar and leaving the entire Naugatuck River Valley a better place.”

    Next up for Zak and NRRG: They head to Ansonia to clean sections of the Naugatuck River Canal system. [Photo credits: Kevin Zak and Scott Hartley]

Cheshire Summer Camps

  • With summer in New England comes bountiful sunshine, opportunities for outdoor fun and, of course, children out of school for summer vacation. For many, summer means local camps where kids can explore their world and create new memories. But for families of special needs children, finding an affordable and appropriate camp experience can be a trying ordeal. Seeking to meet this need, the Cheshire Parks and Recreation Department began offering Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Summer Camps in 2010 for children with physical, cognitive, emotional or social limitations.

  • With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation, TR Camp captures the best of a traditional camp experience but does so in a way that is welcoming and specifically geared toward campers with special needs. “Our program offers an excellent opportunity for the campers to practice the socialization skills that they are learning at school. Naturally, we offer swimming, crafts and athletic activities, but our specialized staff also introduce new activities – such as karate and yoga, while focusing more on life skills, like how to use their voice to order an ice cream,” comments Barbara Costello, Therapeutic Recreation Specialist.

  • Grants from CCF have enabled the Park & Recreation Department to further develop the TR Camp program and make it available to more kids. In particular, CCF grants have helped the Recreation Department hire specialized staff, such as speech therapists and occupational therapists, and incorporate special guests to share new skills. “Keeping the costs of camp reasonable for families is challenging due to the higher level or expertise of staff needed. But with the Foundation’s support, we are proud to be able to keep our rates in line with traditional camp programs,” adds Costello.

  • Helping kids with special needs have a fun, traditional summer camp experience created just for them - Timeless Impact.

Friends of the Litchfield Community Greenway

  • “It’s a peaceful place where I can watch the moon rise and the sun set, see wildlife, and walk almost every morning,” says Berta Andrulis Mette of the Litchfield Community Greenway. Very soon, countless others will be able to say the same. Connecticut Community Foundation contributed $4,800 in grant funding to Friends of the Litchfield Community Greenway (FLCG) for phase two of their project to continue the development of the Greenway trail for recreation (walking, bicycling, running, and cross-country skiing) while protecting important habitats.

    Ultimately, the entire completed 4-mile trail will be a safe, serene, non-motorized path that will connect the center of Litchfield with Bantam, following the historic Shepaug railroad route.

  • Slated to be completed by June 1, the new section of trail will link the western end of the Ghost Trail with the recently improved Pine Island Trail of White Memorial Woods. Importantly, a footbridge that traverses a stream in the area will be replaced.

    “We are ready to go! The necessary approvals, funding, and manpower are in place to proceed,” says Andrulis Mette, vice president of the FLCG board.

  • The group has been developing the trail as a “natural greenway”—a hard-packed stone surface rather than paved—and supportive volunteers continually maintain the route.

    “The Greenway is a community treasure.” says Andrulis Mette. “When the entire Litchfield Community Greenway trail is completed, one won’t have to travel a state highway – with no sidewalks – to get to two important areas, Litchfield and Bantam.”

    [Photos used with permission of FLCG]

Acts 4 Ministry

  • A Give Local Success Story

    On May 5th and 6th, 157 local nonprofits participated in Connecticut Community Foundation’s third annual Give Local Greater Waterbury & Litchfield Hills online fundraising campaign. The 36-hour event raised nearly $820,000 to support charitable work across our region – a record. But while big numbers grab headlines, the real story is the good that more than 3,200 Give Local donors make possible. Acts 4 Ministry – a Waterbury-based organization that provides furniture and clothing to people in need – offers one picture of the true impact of Give Local.

  • This year, Acts 4 decided to make its Give Local campaign more tangible by asking donors to contribute to help buy new mattress sets, for which there is always a major need. The group reached out to Sandy Marino, owner of Sandy’s TV & Appliance in Wolcott. The business agreed to donate up to 20 new mattresses sets if Acts 4 could raise enough to purchase 20 with Give Local donations. “Our volunteers and Board of Directors got on the phone and called our supporters to let them know we needed their Give Local donations to secure these mattresses. We were shocked at how quickly we reached our goal and we are so pleased to be able to offer 40 of our clients a comfortable place to sleep,” reflects Acts 4 Executive Director Sarah Elizabeth Carabetta.

  • For Marino it was a win-win situation. “I heard Sarah speak at a business networking meeting and it seemed like a perfect match – genuine community need and the passion of Sarah to make a difference.” Marino delivered the first 10 mattresses to Acts 4 during the Give Local campaign and plans are underway to distribute the others. “It’s given me a great sense of pride to be able to help others in this way,” adds Marino.

  • In addition to the critically needed mattresses, Acts 4 Ministry sees a broader benefit to its Give Local participation. As Carabetta explains, “On an organizational level, Give Local has definitely helped us increase our branding and awareness throughout the general community. Our staff and donors love the intensity and energy that this event creates.” Give Local has enhanced Acts 4’s outreach efforts, which means more support for families in financial distress with reusable furniture, clothing and housewares. Giving nonprofits a new way to raise the funds they need to touch lives - Timeless Impact.

Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury

  • Memories to Memoirs Program

    Connecticut Community Foundation is proud to support Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury and Waterbury’s collaborative BRASS initiative as they work with older adults in our area to help them find their voices and share stories across the generations. With a grant from the Foundation’s Pathways for Older Adults initiative, LVGW’s Memories to Memoirs program brings participants back to another time, while helping to keep their minds sharp today.

  • Volunteers work one-on-one with participants, listening to their stories and working with them to capture their thoughts and memories in writing. The memoirists gather at the Mattatuck Museum at the end of the program for a reading of several of the stories. All stories are compiled into a booklet to share with family and friends. LVGW’s Executive Director Tina Agati explains that “talking about one’s earlier memories is a great way for our older community members to keep their minds sharp and prevent dementia.”

  • Clara Ducham, an LVGW staff member who works with the program, enjoys helping participants capture their memories. “They are so excited that someone is interested in hearing about their experiences. And in many cases they are creating an amazing legacy – one senior, for example, told me that he hadn’t ever told his children about his recollection of the Flood of 1955.” Preserving memories and sharing stories across the generations – Timeless Impact.

Rebuilding Together Litchfield County

  • Helping Older Adults Age in Place – One Home at a Time

    Connecticut’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. The state’s Legislative Commission on Aging projects that the number of people aged 65 and over will grow by a staggering 57% between 2010 and 2040. This growth creates tremendous need to enhance services that help older adults live and thrive where they have roots and connections. Frequently, this means staying in the comfort of their own homes – what professionals refer to as “Aging in Place.” Rebuilding Together Litchfield County is committed to helping older adults stay in homes that are well maintained and safe. Rebuilding Together provides home repair and preservation services, without charge, for older adults who cannot afford to hire skilled professionals. They also provide referrals to trustworthy, skilled tradespeople.

  • Executive Director Ceia Webb has seen firsthand how difficult it can be for aging adults to remain safely in their homes. “As health fails, income and capacity are often diminished, which impacts the ability to care for homes. There are so many needs - remodeling a bathroom, installing safety devices, building a necessary ramp for safe egress and correcting plumbing and electrical problems. Our goal is to reach out to our low-income neighbors who are frail and in need of assistance in addressing their home preservation and safety needs.” Rebuilding Together’s dedicated volunteers – who include many skilled workers— have made repairs at over 193 Litchfield County homes. For volunteers, the Rebuilding Together work has become meaningful gift of time and talent they return to annually.

  • As electrical engineer John Gsell – an 8 year volunteer – explains, “After my wife and I moved back to Connecticut, we were looking for a way to make a difference with our lives. We started a scholarship fund with CCF in 2007, but we were also hoping to reach out to the needy in a more hands on way. Rebuilding Together has a very simple mission and it has been incredibly rewarding to help others remain comfortable in their homes.” In 2013, Rebuilding Together Litchfield County received a three-year grant from Connecticut Community Foundation’s Pathways for Older Adults program. This ongoing support is greatly appreciated. CCF is proud to provide grant support to organizations like Rebuilding Together Litchfield County that are addressing the pressing needs of our aging population. Helping older adults remain safe, warm and independent in a place they call home – Timeless Impact.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

  • The Greening of Waterbury

    For over 10 years, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the Waterbury UConn branch has offered quality learning experiences for older adults who want to engage socially and intellectually with peers and instructors. “Our programs are community-responsive and rely on the expertise of volunteers to provide instruction in an area of interest to the community,” explains Brian Chapman, former OLLI Director. So when Nunzio DeFilippis (right), a passionate OLLI instructor, approached Chapman and said he wanted to help feed the hungry in his home city, “The Greening of Waterbury” program was created.

  • Supported by Connecticut Community Foundation’s Pathways initiative, “The Greening of Waterbury” is a tremendous collaborative food-growing effort that now produces nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh food annually. “Our farm is located at Fulton Park on City property. The nonprofit Brass City Harvest already had control of the land and provides seeds and soil while our OLLI team plants all of the seeds, cares for the plants and delivers the produce to area soup kitchens,” explains DeFilippis. “Every year, we have about 15-20 volunteers who participate in the program. It is a significant time commitment since we work at least 3 days a week from March through October.”

  • Pathways funding is instrumental in supporting the needs of the program. “All of the soil in Waterbury is contaminated, so we need to use raised beds for all of our plantings. The Foundation’s support has helped us secure organic fertilizer. And moving forward, the grant will be used to install a new irrigation system, which will conserve water, save time and effort, and increase productivity,” adds DeFilippis. The benefits of this project are countless for the community and the OLLI group. “Not only are the volunteers feeding the hungry, but they have a unique opportunity to engage socially with their peers, improve their physical health and interact with younger generations through partnerships with undergraduate students and the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury’s LACE program,” remarks DeFilippis.

  • OLLI Interim Director Jonathan Draper sums it up well. “OLLI and the UConn Waterbury campus could not be more proud of DeFilippis and all of the dedicated gardeners. Their commitment to improving their own lives, and the lives of the community around them is truly an inspiration.” Helping to provide a one of a kind opportunity for older adults to improve their personal and social well-being, while supporting the needs of the community – Timeless Impact.

Reach Out And Read

  • Supporting a unique partnership between pediatricians and families

    Most people understand that reading is a fundamental building block for a fulfilling and productive life. Experts agree that when young children are introduced to books, it can make a world of difference for language development and future academic success. But the challenge is how to get books into the hands of more young children and engage parents in daily shared reading with their children.

  • Reach Out and Read Connecticut brings families and books together in a truly unique way. With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation’s LitLinks Program, Reach Out and Read partners with area physicians who “prescribe” books and encourage families to read together. During well-child visits, participating pediatricians provide every child age 6 months to 5 years with a new developmentally and culturally appropriate book to take home. Doctors also guide parents on incorporating shared reading into their daily routines.

  • “Children who enter kindergarten without the basic language skills required for reading start school at a tremendous disadvantage and children from low-income families are at especially high risk for reading failure. Reach Out and Read distributed over 8,500 new books in communities throughout Greater Waterbury in one year alone,” comments Christine Garber, Executive Director for the Connecticut chapter of Reach Out and Read. “It is amazing to be able to introduce reading to so many young families.”

  • The program has been well received by physicians and families alike. “Reach Out and Read is an invaluable program for encouraging early literacy skills and promoting bonding opportunities for parents and their children” said Dr. Linda Mathew of Alliance Medical Group in Middlebury. “Our families at Alliance Medical Group are enthusiastic to read their new books with their child and create their first library of books in their home.”

  • Reach Out and Read has an ambitious goal to make Waterbury a “Book End City,” where every pediatrician in the city is part of the program. Support from LitLinks and other area funders may help make this goal a reality. Enriching the lives of children and families through reading – Timeless Impact.

Pilobolus

Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy

  • The Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy (LRWC) in Litchfield, CT is considered to be one of the pre-eminent facilities for breeding rare and endangered waterfowl. In 2013, there was just one bird of prey (a Saker Falcon) in the Conservancy’s Avian Ambassador education program for students. When the Conservancy decided it wanted to expand this program, it applied for a grant from CCF. The Foundation awarded LRWC a $3,500 grant which allowed them to construct three enclosures for birds of prey that now house four new birds: a Eurasian Eagle Owl, a Barn Owl, and two Peregrine Falcons.

  • These new birds have increased the popularity of the Avian Ambassadors program, attendance at on-site events and school field trips, as well as presentations in classrooms throughout several counties. And in 2014, the Conservancy presented the Avian Ambassador program to students from 16 schools including underserved schools such as the Children’s Community School in Waterbury. These programs were presented in the school classrooms or at the Conservancy. Students from New Haven, Litchfield, Hartford and Fairfield counties were served.

  • Visitation was increased by 13% through birds of prey demonstrations, on-site events featuring the Eurasian Eagle Owl, falcon flying demonstrations, Owl Prowls and group tours including photographers and ornithologists which also featured the owls and falcon. The 2015 Summer Enrichment Program (offered from June to August for students in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades) will be presenting three programs where the birds of prey are prominently featured. The Conservancy is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays (excluding holidays) from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm from April 1st to November 30th. Supporting important environmental research, education and conservation action. Timeless Impact.

Cheshire Community Food Pantry

Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries

  • For over 30 years, Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries (GWIM) has provided warm meals and emergency food items to people in need throughout Greater Waterbury. Between 450-500 people eat daily at GWIM’s soup kitchen, which has been hosted by St. John’s Episcopal Church on the Green. Hungry people also receive some 190,000 meals every year from GWIM’s Emergency Food Pantry, which offers an important safety net for people in need in our community.

  • Recently, GWIM’s future was in jeopardy. In March 2014, St. John’s Church told GWIM that, due to financial hardship, the church could no longer provide the free rent on which GWIM had relied, and that GWIM would have to vacate its space by the end of 2014. “We will always be grateful for St. John’s Church. With their grace, we were able to grow our organization and provide for the needs of so many. However, we were shocked and saddened at this news. The St. John’s location has become a safe haven for so many people and it will be quite an adjustment for all of us,” reflects Barbara Ann Dublin, Executive Director of GWIM.

  • Determined not to shut its doors to people in need, GWIM immediately began searching for a new location and initiated a fundraising campaign. “Not once did we consider closing our ministry. So many people of all ages rely on our services,” adds Dublin. Connecticut Community Foundation’s Manager of Grants, Josh Carey, was one of the first to reach out to GWIM and offer support. “Josh called several times to offer CCF’s assistance. His kind words lifted all of us up and encouraged us to keep moving forward. Because of him, we knew that there were others that would help us through this overwhelming experience.”

  • The organization soon found a new home at 770 East Main Street. But the new space needed to be renovated, and there were zoning hurdles to overcome, all on a very tight schedule. Grant support from the Connecticut Community Foundation helped keep GWIM’s plan on track by paying for a new storage outbuilding to house the Emergency Food Pantry, commercial refrigerators and freezers. With support from CCF and others in the community, GWIM successfully moved their operation to the new location by its year-end deadline, and continues to serve people in need without interruption, as it has for more than three decades. Helping to ensure that an organization that provides a lifeline to so many remains operational for years to come. Timeless Impact.

LIVESTRONG

  • The Foundation is proud to provide grant support for the LIVESTRONG Program offered at the Greater Waterbury YMCA. This free program is designed to help cancer patients regain the strength that is often lost during cancer treatments. “Radiation and chemotherapy not only take a tremendous toll on the body, but also seriously affect a patient’s emotional wellbeing. LIVESTRONG helps restore a sense of normalcy and provides a supportive environment and structure needed to become healthy again,” comments Meghan Lennon, Health & Wellness Program Specialist at the YMCA. “The program focuses on regaining strength and energy, increasing flexibility and endurance, improving balance, reducing the severity of the therapy side effects, and helping participants develop their own fitness program so they can maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

  • LIVESTRONG classes meet twice a week for a total of 12 weeks and incorporate strength training along with other classes such as yoga, Tai Chi, and aerobics. Participants also receive a free YMCA membership to allow them to take advantage of additional classes outside of their sessions.

  • Since the program began in 2012, 150 participants have graduated from LIVESTRONG at the YMCA and have made significant progress. “We repeat the original assessment at the end of the program and I am thrilled that we have seen improvements in all areas for each participant. As well, many continue the social relationships they make with their peer survivors and many graduates remain active members at the YMCA,” adds Lennon. Helping cancer patients create a healthy lifestyle and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives – Timeless Impact.

Shakesperience

  • Performing Art that brings history to life!

    Since its beginning, the professional theater company Shakesperience Productions has sought to inspire a greater appreciation of the arts among young people not only to enrich the performing arts, but also to enhance students’ own lives as they grow and become full participants in the community.

  • In response to the Foundation’s Living Art grant program, which enables arts providers to bring meaningful arts experiences to residents where they live, Shakesperience created “Our City, Our Neighborhoods.” This unique CCF-funded arts program allows children between the ages of 7 and 13 to create interactive performances that focus on the development and history of their own Waterbury neighborhoods. Students perform the shows in the corresponding neighborhoods and also at the public Shakespeare in Library Park Festival in downtown Waterbury. Shakesperience plans to repeat the program annually, until all of Waterbury neighborhoods have been featured.

  • The program received rave reviews during its inaugural performance at Fulton Park. “It literally brought people to tears. Yes, tears of joy and pride to watch a Shakesperience trained group of children who sang and chanted the history of our neighborhoods, set with the backdrop of historic buildings. It was priceless and is sure to entice other young people to train at Shakesperience,” remarks Bernadine Orintas, a friend and supporter of the organization.

  • Before that particular performance, Shakesperience staff and several students volunteered at the Fulton Park Spring Clean-Up, bringing a second dimension to the kids’ involvement as students made the connection between their clean-up work and their future performance in a clean, green, community space in one of Waterbury’s historic neighborhoods. Connecticut Community Foundation is committed to promoting cultural enrichment activities for the young people in our communities and is proud to support the work of Shakesperience Productions. Encouraging urban vitality, strengthening neighborhood pride, and instilling a love of the arts in our young people – Timeless Impact.

LitLinks

  • For the past ten years, Connecticut Community Foundation has helped provide young children with a strong educational backbone through its LitLinks grant making initiative. Aiming to improve the quality of preschool programs by increasing the number of centers that are accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), ease transitions to Kindergarten, and enhance parent involvement, LitLinks has touched thousands of young children from birth to age 8 through programs like these: • Reach Out and Read • Literacy Volunteers on the Green, Family Read • Children’s Center of New Milford, Early Literacy through Music

  • The Foundation recently undertook a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of the LitLinks grants. “Since 2005, we have invested over $1 million in early childhood education through LitLinks. As we celebrate 10 years of supporting children through this grant program, we wanted to take a good look at what our grantmaking has accomplished, identify needs and gaps in funding, and chart a course for the future,” explains Ellen Carter, Director of Community Leadership and Program Officer for the LitLinks program. The evaluation revealed clear benefits to the community as well as remaining needs. “Several of our communities are successfully engaging parents but we found they are looking for more information about changes in curriculum and standards,” indicates Carter.

  • “Also, some programs are effectively connecting preschool and Kindergarten teachers, but a lack of time and funding for substitute teachers impedes their ability to communicate regularly.” These findings underscore the need for continued funding, and the Foundation remains committed to this area. “We know there is still work to be done to improve access to preschool education and connect children with social, emotional and educational resources. We plan to re-align these programs within a more holistic new Cradle to Career framework, which will focus on education from birth through high school and will give us new insights into the community needs and gaps in funding,” adds Carter. Ensuring that young children have access to quality early education programs – Timeless Impact.

Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust

  • Turning Vandalism Into Learning

    The Still River Preserve is one of New Milford’s gems – a beautiful 126-acre expanse with the meandering Still River at its heart. The area features a restored waterway and unique wildlife and plants, including state-listed plant species of special concern. In 2013, vandals struck this pristine area, cutting down several majestic 200-year-old sycamore trees, dumping trash, and causing extensive damage from off-road driving.

  • With limited funding and manpower, Weantinoge decided to turn a bad situation into a learning experience. With grant support from the Connecticut Community Foundation, Weantinoge formed a partnership with the New Milford Youth Agency (NMYA) and the Institute for American Indian Studies (IAIS) not only to restore beauty and ecology to the area, but also to open the eyes of local students to the beauty within their community.

  • Twelve high school and college students from NMYA joined the habitat restoration and protection project. Some brought prior interest in environmental work with them, while others were exposed to the issues for the first time. In July and August, the group successfully removed 3 tons of dumped material, transplanted approximately 100 native plants to the area, removed dense growths of non-native invasive plant species, provided additional protection to existing plantings, and restored areas damaged by off-road vehicles. Additionally, to protect these restoration efforts going forward, the group installed a permanent gate to prevent illegal access to the property.

  • Rebecca McKay Steinberg, Assistant Director of Land Conservation, reflects on the decision to engage young people in the restoration project, “Countless studies have shown how the physical and social well-being of children is compromised when the majority of their early lives are spent indoors, disconnected from nature. It is uplifting to see their energy, interest, and teamwork transform the area. And at the same time, they are cultivating their own connection with nature by conserving the Still River Preserve in their hometown.”

  • Crew leader Steven Eng, a sophomore environmental science major at Johnson State College in VT, helped lead the project. “Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust and the New Milford Youth Agency have created a great learning opportunity about invasive species and land conservation. The opportunity to help steward part of the Still River Preserve was very interesting. Seeing real world applications of what I am studying in school gives me great excitement,” comments Steven.

  • In addition to the hands-on preservation efforts, students attended a plant identification and field navigation course, toured the Institute for American Indian Studies Museum and Research Center, and participated in an archaeological hike and workshop at the Preserve. Weantinoge, NMYA and IAIS plan to continue collaborating through the fall, as there is additional habitat survey and restoration work to be done at the Still River Preserve.

Naugatuck Youth Services

  • For some 40 years, the Naugatuck Department of Youth and Family Services served the needs of young people living in Naugatuck. When the agency learned it would no longer be considered an official department of the Borough of Naugatuck, members of the Department’s Advisory Board took swift action to ensure that services would continue to reach the town’s kids. In July 2014, the department became Naugatuck Youth Services, an independent nonprofit organization.

  • With the change came new organizational challenges. As Executive Director Kristen Mabrouk explains, “The Advisory Board worked hard to transform the Borough Department into a self-sufficient nonprofit. Once the nonprofit was formed, they quickly realized that there were a lot of important things to address before they could successfully continue youth programming activities.” The group reached out to Connecticut Community Foundation for support. Through the Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, the Board of Directors and Executive Director of the new nonprofit were able to create immediate stability and formulate long term strategies.

  • “Our Nonprofit Assistance Initiative Advisor worked with us extensively to develop bylaws and a strategic plan, analyze our strengths and challenges, and offer direction on board roles. Without the support of this program, I’m not sure where Naugatuck Youth Services would be at this point,” reflects Mabrouk. Additionally, Mabrouk was invited to participate in a group for new executive directors, facilitated by John Long, the Foundation’s nonprofit excellence program officer. “It was great to be in a room with other new nonprofit directors. We were able to share ideas, learn about expectations and problem solve with each other.”

  • With the support of the Nonprofit Excellence program, Naugatuck Youth Services has been able to concentrate on what it does best - responding to community needs identified by youth. “We focus on youth leadership development and after school programs to try to eliminate the temptations of alcohol and drug use. Additionally, our Juvenile Review Board has been successful in addressing juvenile criminal cases and thus avoiding criminal records. And our new Girls on the Run program incorporates running to help build confidence in girls.” Helping a new nonprofit build the foundation it needs to succeed – Timeless Impact.

The Children's Center of New Milford

  • Promoting Early Literacy through Music

    The Children’s Center of New Milford welcomes all children – regardless of family income – in its early childhood education and childcare programs. Nearly one half of the students enrolled in the Center’s programs for children 3 months to 8 years old are from low income households. Knowing that these kids are less likely to enter school with the skills they need to learn to read, the Center’s staff is always thinking about creative ways to boost literacy skills. With grant support from the Connecticut Community Foundation’s LitLinks program, the Center created a Music and Early Literacy program that introduces children to music, which research shows is a developmentally appropriate and effective way to develop a child’s vocabulary and ability to understand language.

  • “At the Children’s Center, we are committed to preparing children for future success in public schools and developing pre-reading skills is an integral part of that. There is a great deal of research on the positive correlation between music and language development among young children and this program makes it all come to life. These kids are having fun – they’re singing, moving, rhyming and interacting with their instructor and each other” comments Susan Johnston, Executive Director at the Center. Since the program began in 2013, the children have shown tremendous improvement in early literacy skills. One year into the program, rhyming detection and production increased by over 50%, syllable recognition increased by 40%, and identification of the initial sounds of words increased by 40%.

  • Ellen Carter, Director of Community Leadership at Connecticut Community Foundation explains, “The LitLinks Program is a special initiative established by CCF to increase the number of children reading on grade level by age 8. The Music and Early Literacy Skills program at Children’s Center of New Milford is a fine example of an organization working creatively to bolster literacy skills in a fun, developmentally appropriate way.” Ensuring that today’s children are armed with the literacy skills they need to succeed in the future – Timeless Impact.

St. Vincent de Paul

  • Shelter Day Program

    Josephine and Russell McMillen established the Lois Livingston McMillen Fund at Connecticut Community Foundation to honor the memory of their daughter, who was passionate about helping women and children victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse. The McMillen Fund recently awarded a grant to St. Vincent DePaul Mission’s Emergency Homeless Shelter to allow single homeless women who have been victims of violence or other abuses to remain at the shelter during winter daytime hours.

  • Historically, the St. Vincent DePaul Shelter has closed its doors to single women during the day, only allowing women with children to remain. With the support of the McMillen Fund, the shelter will be able to remain open to these women during the winter months to help ensure their safety. “Connecticut Community Foundation reached out and encouraged us to reconsider our policies with regards to this population. We created a Shelter Day Program, permitting single women to remain here during the day in the colder winter months,” comments Sofia Swaby, Shelter Manager at St. Vincent DePaul. The Shelter Day program serves an estimated 100 women annually. “It’s great because these women no longer have to put themselves in unsafe environments to stay warm during the winter."

  • The United States has the largest number of homeless women among industrialized nations and Waterbury is no exception. “Our female shelter residents come to us for a variety of reasons including domestic violence, chronic physical or mental illness, addiction or due to a sudden life changing event – such as loss of a job or divorce,” explains Swaby. “We serve an average of 50 women per day and our staff provides case management services for all our residents to help them find a more permanent solution.” Helping to keep women in a safe place – Timeless Impact.

Mattatuck Museum Mini-Masters Young Artist Program

  • Bringing the Arts Alive for Young Children

    Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum has long been known as a center for art and history – a gathering place that nurtures creativity and learning while playing homage to the city’s heritage. The museum prides itself on providing historical and artistic education to community members of all ages and keeps the idea of art as a necessity – rather than a luxury – at the heart of its mission. The museum continually strives to find new ways to make the arts come alive for children in Waterbury. Most recently, the Mattatuck teamed up with New Opportunities, Inc. to create a “Mini-Masters Young Artist Program.” The program, which received a Connecticut Community Foundation Living Arts grant, provides arts-related training and activities to children ages 3-5 as well as their parents and caregivers.

  • Mini-Masters taught 65 teachers and aides from two New Opportunities Early Childhood Learning Centers innovative techniques for creating art with preschool children and new ways of talking about art to help develop critical thinking skills. “These workshops challenged educators to move beyond traditional crayon and marker projects with pre-cut shapes and to think of the Mattatuck Museum as an extension of their traditional classroom,” comments Meghan Malcolm, Manager of Youth & Family Programs at the Mattatuck Museum.

  • The Mini-Masters program also includes regular Family Day and Story Time programs. During these events, New Opportunities families and staff are invited to visit the museum free of charge for a museum tour, reading of an arts-related children’s book, and a hands-on art activity. Area families have embraced the program. “This is our first time here as a family. I really enjoy how the program incorporates the art in the galleries to what my son is working on in the art studio, allowing him to visually understand how art is created. It also gives him the opportunity to use materials he does not normally use at school or at home. The program is educating my son, but more importantly he’s having fun while learning,” comments Melissa, a resident of Oakville.

  • Malcolm adds, “Through the Mini-Masters programs, we are trying to make art come alive for the students. By viewing our exhibits and then offering a hands-on creative activity, we’re really helping the children make the connection between the art they create and the art hanging in our galleries. And our underlying message is that making art is fun and can be done in the home environment using everyday materials.” Giving parents and educators tools they need to instill a life-long appreciation of the arts among children – Timeless Impact.

Girl Scouts of Connecticut

  • Free Being Me program

    Building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place has been the central mission of the Girl Scouts of Connecticut since 1912. Recognizing that body image can have significant effects on girls’ self-image and self-esteem, the Girl Scouts plans to offer area girls its new Free Being Me Program with grant support from the Women’s Fund at Connecticut Community Foundation.

  • Free Being Me is an international curriculum created by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts with the Dove Self Esteem Project. It aims to help girls become more body confident. Kassondra Granata, Communications and Public Relations Manager at Girl Scouts of Connecticut, explains, “The program inspires a participant to become free to be herself, to follow her dreams, fulfill her potential and to make a difference in the world. Through small group activities, we teach girls that female images portrayed in society are too narrowly defined and not realistic.The program helps girls to adopt a more healthy understanding of body image while encouraging their peers to do the same.”

  • The Women’s Fund grant will support delivery of the Free Being Me Program to 5th and 6th grade girls attending school in Naugatuck. “Our organization already has a presence in three of the Naugatuck schools where we offer our programs to all girls as part of our Flexible Delivery Outreach initiative. This means that our program will be offered free of charge to all the girls in the school, enabling us to target a population that is underserved and unable to participate due to transportation issues, economic barriers or lack of volunteers,” comments Granata.

  • Girl Scouts of Connecticut has already offered the Free Being Me program in several cities and towns throughout the state with positive results. “After the 7 week program, 91% of our participants indicated that they believe there is more than one way to be beautiful – this shows that the program is making great strides to create a world where no one is worried about the way they look,” adds Granata. Empowering young women to build positive self-images – Timeless Impact.

After School Arts Program (ASAP)

  • A Nonprofit is Born

    In 1999, a small group of concerned citizens and Community Foundation staff members met to discuss the lack of arts enrichment programs for students in the Region 12 School District. Their concern was quite simply that students needed opportunities for artistic expression. Within a few months, the Foundation pledged its support with a $90,000 grant over three years to establish the After School Arts Program (ASAP). That first year, 72 students participated in eight music, dance and art workshops.

  • The Collaboration Continues...

    In 2011, the Foundation provided a technology grant making it possible for ASAP to create an interactive website, expand its social media presence, and install a more efficient database. CCF also supported Inter-district programming and ASAP’s Metamorphosis Project, a unique collective effort between Weantinogue Heritage Land Trust, Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust and 6th grade students at Waterbury Arts Magnet School.

  • In 2014, 114 sixth grade students from Waterbury Arts Magnet School (WAMS) participated in the program. Curriculum and field trip elements were coordinated with area environmental groups such as Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust and Flanders Nature Center. Educational activities included stocking fish and sampling macroinvertebrates at Cobble Brook in Kent and maple syrup production and ecosystems study in Bethlehem. The students then wrote, acted in, and designed puppets for an original play based on their environmental studies, and performed it for 300 classmates and their families at WAMS.

  • ASAP Today

    Now entering its 15th year, ASAP has grown into a vibrant organization dedicated to providing young people with opportunities to create meaningful works of art in a creative and collaborative environment. ASAP reaches more than 6,000 children and adults annually through more than 100 programs and performances. Once covering only the three towns within the Region 12 district (Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington), ASAP now reaches over 100 communities across Connecticut!

Oil Drum Art

  • Waterbury Students Create “Life Art”

    With a Living Art grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation, environmental art group Oil Drum Art of Beacon Falls worked with Waterbury students to artistically transform recycled oil drums into functional trash barrels that will be placed around the city. The group provided twenty prepared 55-gallon oil drums and paint kits to after school programs and organizations including Waterbury Youth Services, Waterbury Police Activity League, Boys & Girls Club, Shakesperience Productions, Mattatuck Museum, Girls Inc., and Carolyn’s Place. The students portrayed key moments in Waterbury’s history on their drums.

  • “The Connecticut Community Foundation’s generous support for this initiative has generated a positive youth development experience. Participating students have become more aware of the unique historical events that occurred in Waterbury and gained a new understanding of environmental issues – both local and global,” comments Jack Lardis, Executive Director of Oil Drum Art, Inc.

  • On November 5th, the completed works of art will be presented to Mayor O’Leary at a ceremony at Veteran’s Hall. Following the ceremony, the trash drums will be relocated to parks, civic building, and schools throughout Waterbury. Beautifying the city, heightening kids’ understanding of environmental issues, and encouraging artistic expression – Timeless Impact.

Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury

  • El Centro Cultural

    The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury’s LACE Program introduces at-risk students to life changing experiences that combine leadership, athletics, community and education. Working with LACE participants, the Coalition noted a lack of cultural space in and around Waterbury dedicated to Latino heritage. Executive DirectorVictor Lopez explains, “We were looking for a place to celebrate Three Kings Day with our LACE participants and ended up going all the way to New York City because there is nothing closer. We thought it would be wonderful to create a space for our youth to display their cultural heritage right here in Waterbury.”

  • With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation’s Living Art initiative, the Hispanic Coalition transformed a vacant city property into a beautiful space called El Centro Cultural that showcases Latino culture. “We spoke with the City about borrowing the former Board of Education building on Church Street, which has been vacant for 6 years. Our students immediately jumped on board and helped us clean everything up,” recalls Lopez. LACE Program Director Roslyn Sotero echoes Lopez’s enthusiasm. “Our students are actively engaged in what happens here – it is their space and they have taken tremendous pride in it. El Centro is a place where Latino youth are united with a truthful and meaningful representation of their cultural heritage, history and successes – a huge boost for a population that is often portrayed in a negative light.”

  • El Centro Cultural has been enthusiastically received by the community. “The community is definitely very curious and interested to see what is going on here. We have a number of exhibits representing Dominican, Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage and the students themselves have been able to display items belonging to their own families,” reflects Sotero. El Centro is also becoming a natural gathering place. “We have had a lot of requests from groups that want to hold meetings and events here. Waterbury Schools are starting to bring their bilingual students and we are also setting up field trips with Latino students in Hartford and New Haven,” adds Mariah Benjamin, LACE Youth Program Coordinator. Helping to create a space where Hispanic youth are empowered to explore their cultural heritage and display their pride – Timeless Impact.

Connecticut Association for Human Services

  • For many years, the Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) has coordinated an annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Campaign across Connecticut, in partnership with the IRS and local community groups. Through VITA, low income people throughout Greater Waterbury receive free tax preparation services – an important resource for low-wage earners and the health of the local economy as a whole. With Connecticut Community Foundation’s support, CAHS’ Waterbury coalition has successfully completed thousands of tax returns for low-income filers in recent years.

  • VITA’s help is more than technical – it provides a real economic infusion for families as well as the community. On average, VITA filers received refunds of $1,746, which can be more than 10% of the household family income. VITA families in the Greater Waterbury area have also received more than $800,000 in Earned Income Tax Credits and saved more than $300,000 in tax preparation fees. This money stabilizes poor families, alleviates debt, improves credit, builds emergency savings accounts, pays bills, and boosts the local economy.

  • Despite its success, CAHS recently faced the loss of several VITA sites and key coordinators in the region. With a grant from Connecticut Community Foundation, CAHS has worked to strengthen its Waterbury coalition for future tax years and solidify support from many community-based organizations, including the United Way of Greater Waterbury, Catholic Charities, Neighborhood Housing Services, Chase School Family Resource Center, and StayWell Health Center. Explains VITA Coordinator Lucille Vaughan, “The VITA program in Waterbury would not have grown as it has this year without the support from CCF. Now, there are about 14,000 families in Waterbury who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit who can come to a VITA site and have their returns prepared accurately and professionally for free.”

  • Heading into the 2015 tax season, the Waterbury coalition is strong and revitalized. This year, in addition to providing free tax services for some 1,500 families, CAHS and its partners will provide free financial education for 150 families, as well as free financial coaching. To learn more about the program, including how to become a volunteer, click here or e-mail Lucille Vaughan at LVaughan@cahs.org. Strengthening local partnerships and building the economic security of families: Timeless Impact.

Landmark Community Theatre

  • Student Theatre Program

    Since Thomaston’s Landmark Community Theatre was established in 2010, it has focused on providing opportunities for people of all ages to participate in performing arts. With support from Connecticut Community Foundation, the Student Theatre program offers teenagers a unique opportunity to be involved in all aspects of theatre production, including acting, singing, dancing, set production, lighting/sound, videography and marketing.

  • “Unfortunately, there are limited opportunities for young adults to become immersed in the performing arts. Often students are restricted to a single high school production annually, but that isn’t really enough for a student who really wants to develop their skills,” explains Gary Kingsbury, Chair of the Landmark Community Theatre Board of Trustees and project manager for the Student Theatre program.

  • The Landmark program is intensive, offering students approximately 100 hours of direct coaching from professional artists over a 3-4 month period, culminating with a full-scale musical production at Thomaston Opera House. The Student Theatre Program has grown substantially with respect to both the number of participants and the size of the audience. “Over the last two years, we have increased our student participation from 20 to 35 and attendance at the teen productions jumped about 60% - a true testament to the quality of our student performers,” remarks Kingsbury.

  • With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation’s Living Arts Program, the students have been able to produce high quality, recognizable shows: The Wedding Singer, Carrie the Musical and two shorter children’s themed shows - Winnie the Pooh and Frosty the Snowman (coming in January 2016). Kingsbury reflects, “We really wanted to choose pieces that resonate with our teen performers, but unfortunately there are a lot of royalty fees with the big name shows, not to mention expenses associated with special effects, lighting and sound. Without the support of CCF, we simply would not have been able to produce these shows.”

  • The students involved have demonstrated marked improvement in music, movement, and acting, and have gained roles in other regional community productions. “One of the things we teach is how to prepare for an audition – how to choose an appropriate audition piece and what to expect – this has gone a long way in helping them be successful. We even had a student who has developed her skills so well that she was selected to choreograph a mainstage adult community theatre production this fall,” adds Kingsbury. Helping young adults through hands-on instruction in the performing arts and developing their interest in theatre – Timeless Impact.

Family Services of Greater Waterbury

  • A Nonprofit Excellence Success Story

    Family Services of Greater Waterbury (FSGW) has been providing behavioral health, children’s programs and employment services for families and individuals of all ages since 1909. The Agency relies heavily on state and federal support for many of its most critical programs. Because reimbursement rates have been stagnant for many years while the costs of providing services have increased, FSGW found its budgets stretched even thinner in the wake of the recession. The organization was making ends meet, but when a large, heavily invested in program lost funding and closed abruptly in 2012, the hundred-year-old Agency found itself in an unexpected financial crisis.

  • “We suddenly had a very serious problem on our hands. It was such a gift when I got the call from John Long, the Connecticut Community Foundation’s Program Officer for Nonprofit Excellence. Through his work in the community, he had heard that our organization was in financial trouble and he reached out to offer us a greatly needed helping hand,” explains Sandy Porteus, Executive Director. With a combination of the Foundation’s Nonprofit Excellence Grant Funding and help from Nonprofit Assistance Initiative advisors, Family Services of Greater Waterbury created a plan to move past its fiscal challenges.

  • Over three years, the Foundation provided FSGW with $35,000 which enabled them to work with experienced consultants around the issues of sustainability planning, strategic development and marketing/branding. “Through its Center for Nonprofit Leadership and nonprofit excellence activities, the Foundation is a true partner in meeting the growing needs of those living in our communities,” says Porteus. “The Foundation has gone above and beyond to ensure that our organization will thrive for years to come and is able to continue to offer these important community services.” Working to ensure vital services remain in our community – Timeless Impact.

Girls Inc.

  • Sew It Up!

    Waterbury is lucky to be the home of Girls, Inc., the first Girls Club incorporated in the United States. This organization offers girls numerous educational opportunities to help them navigate gender, economic and social barriers and develop into healthy, educated and independent adults. When the organization was planning its 150th anniversary celebration in 2014, it wanted to honor some of the programs that were offered back in 1864, but with a modern twist. With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation, Girls, Inc. developed “Sew It Up”, an innovative spin on traditional sewing instruction.

  • “Sewing was certainly a core program when our organization was started and somewhere along the line it faded away. We know that girls love fashion and use it as part of their individual self-expression,” explains Donna Maglio, Executive Director at Girls, Inc. The organization reached out to New York City fashion designer, Suzanne Rae, who has family ties with Girls, Inc. “Suzanne focuses on helping women feel good about themselves through what they wear and we were thrilled when she agreed to freely dedicate her time and talents toward our program.”

  • During the program’s inaugural year, 16 students aged 9-17 learned basic hand and machine sewing technique from Rae and alumni volunteers. Each girl was required to complete an “up-cycled” project in which she transformed an existing piece of clothing into something that reflected herself as an individual. Participants also enjoyed a field trip to New York City’s Fashion District followed by a visit to Suzanne Rae’s studio. “Suzanne was a wonderful host. The girls were able to see her workspace firsthand and eat lunch with other designers. It was amazing to see the enthusiasm of our participants and we think that one of our students will even be doing an internship with Suzanne as a result of this visit,” adds Maglio.

  • Sew It Up culminated with a fashion show which program participants were able to model their creations. Josh Carey, Director of Grants Management at CCF, was an honorary judge. “Sew It Up encourages participants to express their creativity, learn new skills, and work both individually and collaboratively with their peers and mentors - including a professional fashion designer. It was wonderful to see the unique and impressive results of each student’s vision and hard work, which they proudly shared at the fashion show. When young people have the proper environment, guidance, and tools, they can accomplish incredible things,” reflects Carey.

  • Girls Inc. is currently formulating a second Sew It Up program – again funded by CCF – and plans to further develop the concept to incorporate other aspects of the fashion industry, such as marketing, photography/videography and purchasing. Helping girls to develop new skills and use them to express their individuality – Timeless Impact.

Children's Community School

  • A Nonprofit Excellence Success Story

    Children’s Community School (CCS), a 45-year-old private Pre-K through grade 5 school in Waterbury, is dedicated to providing a top notch education to children from low-income families. Because dollars stretch only so far, CCS unfortunately must turn away many children each year. The school dreams of being able to offer more children the chance to participate in its successful and dynamic program. But it has been unable to grow because it is privately funded and does not qualify for the state support that flows to public schools.

  • Connecticut Community Foundation recently awarded a Nonprofit Excellence Grant to CCS, allowing the school to conduct an extensive needs assessment and feasibility study. The effort brought together board, staff, volunteers and student families to explore community needs, to review the financial resources available to support the school’s unique educational philosophy, and to help chart a future course for the school.

  • Webster Bank’s Tony Denniston, a CCS Board Member, chaired the strategic planning process. “With the support of the Foundation, we were able to work with a consultant to really help us delve into the issues. We created a three-year action plan which will help us move forward in a positive direction. This process affirmed our belief that it is imperative that CCS remain viable for the benefit of Waterbury’s community and our strategic plan will ensure that we remain here for years to come.” Bringing stakeholders to the table to ensure a local nonprofit remains viable - Timeless Impact.

Southbury Mobile Food Pantry

  • According to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, 1 in 7 Connecticut residents is currently struggling with hunger. While urban areas have many resources for those considered food insecure, the issue is often overlooked in more affluent suburban communities. Connecticut Community Foundation is proud to provide ongoing grant support to the Southbury Mobile Food Pantry, which is managed by Connecticut Food Bank. In 2014, the Mobile Pantry distributed nearly 6,000 pounds of fresh produce and nutritious groceries to roughly 240 Southbury households.

  • “Our mobile pantries exist to help community members who are struggling to put food on the table. There are no residency or income-related restrictions at Southbury or at any of our 30 other mobile sites and we really encourage anyone in need to attend our monthly distributions,” explains Huwerl Thornton, Mobile Distribution Coordinator at Connecticut Food Bank. Offering quality, nutrient rich foods has been a focus at the Southbury mobile site and a recent partnership with the University of St. Joseph’s Nutrition and Dietetics Program has helped achieve this goal. “We offer a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains for each household. We have also partnered St. Joseph’s to start a SNAP-Ed program where recipes and nutritional facts are distributed. We also hope to add information on applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits in the near future,” adds Thornton.

  • The Southbury Mobile Pantry has been a welcome addition to the community since it was created in 2011. Located at the Southbury Senior Center, the monthly distribution day attracts many local residents in need of fresh, nutritious food. “The mobile pantry is an amazing program that provides a vital service to our community. People of all ages are grateful to receive the fresh produce and our distribution day volunteers are eager to help,” remarks Sandra Saren, Director of Social Services in Southbury and site coordinator for the Mobile Pantry. Increasing access to healthy food options for those in need – Timeless Impact.

NW CT Area Health Education Center

  • Mental health is critical to everyone’s well-being, and deserves close attention from an early age. That’s why Connecticut Community Foundation provided a grant to the Northwestern CT Area Health Education Center (AHEC), enabling the group to provide local training workshops in the national, evidence-based Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) program. Through the program, AHEC is teaching adults who interact regularly with young people how to identify mental health issues early and help people receive the treatment they need. Evidence demonstrates that YMHFA improves health outcomes for young people who are experiencing a mental health challenge.

  • As AHEC Executive Director Tricia Harrity explains, “mental illness effects one in five adolescents in any given year, so it is important for communities to learn the signs of different mental illnesses and addictions, and how to help a person experiencing a mental health challenge. By providing this training, we’re improving mental health literacy in critical places throughout the greater Waterbury community so that trainees can get involved where appropriate and connect people to resources and help they need.”

  • AHEC has already conducted YMHFA certification classes with a number of groups working with young people in our region, including Americorps, Chase Collegiate School, Education Connection, Naugatuck Valley Community College, New Opportunities of Waterbury, and Waterbury Youth Services. AHEC will continue to offer classes in the greater Waterbury area, including trainings scheduled at Waterbury Youth Services and the Jewish Federation in Southbury. Teaching people how to identify young people struggling with mental health problems and how to get them the help they need – Timeless Impact.

Bravo Waterbury!

Junior Achievement

  • In a city such as Waterbury where the high school graduation rates consistently lag behind state averages, a program like Junior Achievement (JA) – a national organization that teaches financial responsibility, entrepreneurial skills, and workplace readiness – can make a world of difference in helping students acquire skills for future economic success. Connecticut Community Foundation has provided Junior Achievement of Southwest New England with grant funding to create a new JA program for fifth grade students in Waterbury’s Kingsbury and Tinker Elementary Schools.

  • “With the support and encouragement of the Foundation, we were challenged to find ways to increase the impact of what has traditionally been a one day program. As a result, we developed a more intensive package specifically for Waterbury that allows our volunteers and students to really delve deep into the curriculum” explains Jeremy Race, Chief Operating Officer of Junior Achievement of Southwest New England. Junior Achievement’s community volunteers visit classrooms and teach students life skills, such as money management and business development. The Waterbury program culminates with a field trip to CoCo Key Resort where students can see what they have learned in action. “Our JA students participate in a résumé writing and skills assessment workshop when they arrive so they can start to think about how their skills and interests can be combined in the workplace.

  • Later when they tour the facility, everything comes together as they are introduced to the many different roles that employees play,” adds Race. The staff of Kingsbury and Tinker schools enthusiastically endorses Junior Achievement. Tinker elementary Principal, Lauren Elias, observes, “JA’s in-school programs have been incredibly positive experiences for our students, and the field trips have kindled their desire to learn more about the career opportunities available in Waterbury.” Pamela Baim, Principal at Kingsbury, also praised the Junior Achievement supplements and field trips, claiming that “these extras have given our students experiences that few fifth graders have had.” Giving young people the knowledge and skills they need for future economic success – Timeless Impact.

Literacy Volunteers on the Green

  • With support from Connecticut Community Foundation, New Milford-based Literacy Volunteers on the Green launched the Family Read Program, which helps parents who are building their own literacy skills to share books with their children and instill in them a lifelong interest in storytelling, listening, and reading – early reading skills that research shows are keys to future learning. “We’re really trying to encourage parents – many of whom are considered low literate or are non-native English speakers – to read together and foster a love of reading for their children,” explains Jacqueline Farrell, Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers on the Green.

  • The group reads a different children’s book during each meeting with parents over the 6-8 week program. “We practice reading the books aloud and discuss ways that the parents can initiate conversations with their children by asking open ended questions. We may also suggest a craft activity that correlates with the lessons in the story,” remarks Carol McCarthy, veteran preschool teacher, trained program facilitator, and member of the board of directors of Literacy Volunteers on the Green. “Parents can connect with the literature, find meaning and understanding which will help their children become more thoughtful readers, and help children get more out of their reading experience”.

  • As a result of grant funding from Connecticut Community Foundation and other sources, Family Read reached 51 families in the New Milford area in 2014. And in 2015, through the Foundation’s Give Local Greater Waterbury & Litchfield Hills online giving event, the organization raised more funding to ensure that Family Read will continue. “We were pleased to raise over $3,700 during Give Local, which will provide funding for the program through next summer,” adds Farrell. Helping parents see the importance of reading, improve their reading abilities and instill a lifelong love of books in young children – Timeless Impact.

Berkeley Warner Recreation Facility

  • A large part of helping at-risk, vulnerable youth succeed is giving them a place outside of school to connect with peers and mentors – a place for recreation, socialization, and academic assistance. For over 500 kids residing in Waterbury’s impoverished Berkeley Heights housing project, the Berkeley Warner Rec Center long provided such an outlet. When the Center was closed in 2012 due to funding reductions, the community was left with a tremendous void. But the Greater Waterbury YMCA stepped up to ensure that this important community resource would not remain closed for long.

  • “We met with the Waterbury Housing Authority and proposed that if they could maintain the overhead for the building and fields, the YMCA could provide staffing for youth development programs at the Center. After a series of talks involving other partners and funders – including Connecticut Community Foundation – we knew that we could make it happen,” comments Jim O’Rourke, YMCA Executive Director. The YMCA organized a massive clean-up of the site and outfitted the space with a computer lab, fitness equipment and other supplies. “We hired staff to provide the youth programming activities and reached out to Naugatuck Valley Community College to enlist the help of their AmeriCorps Volunteers.” Grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation has helped the YMCA subsidize expenses for staffing at the Rec Center.

  • “The Rec Center is more than a building – the youth and staff have formed a new community. The staff has set high expectations for the youth to respect the building, and the kids feel a sense of ownership in having a place to go,” adds O’Rourke. “We recently had a very popular summer field trip to YMCA Camp Mataucha in Watertown and we have become a site for the food service program so that we can offer nutritious lunches during the summer,” adds Program Director Kristen Coburn. This new collaboration is making big contributions within the Berkeley Heights community. As Coburn explains, “our staff is able to form supportive relationships with the kids and we are thrilled to see the positive response from the families in the neighborhood.” Helping to provide underserved, at-risk youth a haven to call their own – Timeless Impact.

Bridge to Success

  • A Community Partnership

    Waterbury is lucky to have a unique collaboration working to support the city’s children and youth, from cradle to career. And Connecticut Community Foundation is very proud to support it. The Bridge to Success (BTS) Community Partnership was formally established in 2010 and is an alliance of 85 local public and private organizations, families and volunteers, all working toward a common goal – ensuring that the city’s young people have the resources they need to succeed in school, work and life.

  • Bridge to Success aims to tackle some of the early learning, social and emotional development challenges facing children and youth in Waterbury, and ultimately to improve high school graduation rates. “No one organization created these issues and no one organization can solve them. But by working collaboratively toward a common goal, we can collectively begin to improve outcomes for the young people in Waterbury,” explains Lori Hart, BTS Executive Director. “We are excited that many of our partner organizations are starting to implement and considering the community identified strategies throughout their programs and the decisions they make.”

  • BTS recently compiled a “2015 Community Report Card”, a major step in examining Waterbury’s child and youth data. Broken down by gender, race/ethnicity and economic status, the report demonstrates that there are significant disparities among the city students who excel in school and those who fall behind. “The data in the report can be viewed as a call to action for the key areas where BTS partners can make a coordinated shift in how they address the issues,” adds Hart.

  • Connecticut Community Foundation is proud to support the ongoing work of Bridge to Success both through grants and as a member of the BTS Community Council. Being part of a broad-based partnership to help Waterbury youth excel from cradle to career – Timeless Impact.

    Click here to read the BTS Community Report Card

History Bites

  • With a vision of making the region’s heritage come alive for the community, twelve years ago a group of area history buffs created the History Bites Lecture Series. Over the years, History Bites – which Connecticut Community Foundation has provided sponsorship support for since 2011 – has offered countless opportunities to learn about some of the many significant locations, events and individuals that have shaped our shared history. The lecture series is a fine example of what strong collaboration between multiple nonprofits can accomplish. “We have dedicated committee representatives from various historical societies and museums throughout the area. Each of us is responsible for planning and hosting one portion of the annual ten part series,” explains Suzie Fateh, Collections Manager at the Mattatuck Museum and member of the History Bites committee.

  • History Bites lectures generally attracts 50-100 individuals each. “Over the years, we have seen significant growth in the number of people who join us each week and we have a nice contingent that attends every session,” adds Fateh. The sessions are held throughout the region, taking place in various historical societies, museums, churches and businesses. For Judith Eslami, longtime volunteer and member of CCF’s Outreach and Development Committee, History Bites is a fun way to learn. “We are truly blessed to have such high quality programming offered in our backyards.”

  • Topics vary, but all are relevant to the local community. “One lecture that stands out to me in particular was a presentation explaining the history of Southbury’s Heritage Village. It attracted many of the original employees and members of the founding family – it was so popular that it was repeated due to high demand,” recalls Eslami. Connecticut Community Foundation is proud to support this collective effort through a sponsorship grant. Helping to bring history to life – Timeless Impact.

More Grantee Stories

  • Expanding Library Walls: Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury Unveils Storymobile
  • Give Local Gives Main Street Ballet a New Dance Floor
  • A new Cheshire Community Food Pantry
  • UnGroup Society Injects New Energy and Volunteerism in Waterbury
  • Waterbury Community Leaders Develop Parent Advocates
  • An Oasis for Hispanic Older Adults
  • A Summer of Song for Waterbury Youngsters
  • A River Renewed
  • Cheshire Summer Camps
  • Friends of the Litchfield Community Greenway
  • Acts 4 Ministry
  • Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury
  • Rebuilding Together Litchfield County
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
  • Reach Out And Read
  • Pilobolus
  • Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy
  • Cheshire Community Food Pantry
  • Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries
  • LIVESTRONG
  • Shakesperience
  • LitLinks
  • Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust
  • Naugatuck Youth Services
  • The Children's Center of New Milford
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Mattatuck Museum Mini-Masters Young Artist Program
  • Girl Scouts of Connecticut
  • After School Arts Program (ASAP)
  • Oil Drum Art
  • Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury
  • Connecticut Association for Human Services
  • Landmark Community Theatre
  • Family Services of Greater Waterbury
  • Girls Inc.
  • Children's Community School
  • Southbury Mobile Food Pantry
  • NW CT Area Health Education Center
  • Bravo Waterbury!
  • Junior Achievement
  • Literacy Volunteers on the Green
  • Berkeley Warner Recreation Facility
  • Bridge to Success
  • History Bites