Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, the largest private social service provider in the County, received a grant from Bank of America to create an innovative meal partnership with local restaurants in Stamford and Bridgeport. The meals purchased supported the New Covenant Center and Thomas Merton Center, Catholic Charities’ programs that operate two large soup kitchens and food pantries in regions that were hit the hardest by the coronavirus.
The staff of Sunshine Cuisine in Stamford
Not only does this partnership support locally owned Connecticut restaurants, but it put these delicious, locally-produced meals on the plates of those who are in need here throughout Fairfield County. Before the coronavirus, Catholic Charities served over 1.3 million meals per year across the county through its soup kitchens, food pantries, and senior nutrition programs. Due to the ongoing health crisis, that number significantly increased by 200 percent. Catholic Charities used the grant from Bank of America to purchase food from local restaurants in Stamford and Bridgeport to serve at the soup kitchens at the New Covenant and Thomas Merton Centers. As so many businesses had to close during the state shutdown, supporting local restaurants is critical now more than ever, as capacity remains at 50% for indoor dining, and many restaurants have had to permanently shut their doors.
“As the coronavirus continues to impact our residents, it is extraordinary to witness Catholic Charities provide for our most vulnerable populations and support local businesses at the same time,” said Bill Tommins Southern Connecticut Market President for Bank of America. “At the onset of the coronavirus, Bank of America made a commitment to support vulnerable populations in the communities we serve. We are grateful that we can support organizations like Catholic Charities because they are so dedicated to helping those in need.”
“Working with Bank of America has been a blessing for our staff and guests. The project has allowed our guests to explore different food that they normally would not encounter. They truly enjoy it. Our staff loves engaging with the different restaurant owners and learning about their experiences and how they have been impacted by the pandemic, just as we have,” said Craig Adler, Director of the Thomas Merton Center.
The Stamford and Bridgeport restaurants that the New Covenant Center and Thomas Merton Center purchased food from includes the Parkway Diner, Michael’s Italian Restaurant, Seasons Eats, Sunshine Cuisine, The Original Vazzy’s, and Rohan’s Family Spice Restaurant. Combined, these restaurants helped the food centers provide over 1500 meals to local residents.
Johnny Vazzano, owner of The Original Vazzy’s understands that his customers are now facing financial hardships and is doing his best to help ease that burden by offering discounts and promotions, like The Family Meal Deal. The restaurant feels that being a part of the community and maintaining a spirit of giving is a vital part of what they do. Vazzy’s has always given back to the City of Bridgeport even before the pandemic and have been regular donors to the Thomas Merton Center. Johnny Vazzano and his staff believe that “we are all in this together.”
“This project was not only very beneficial to New Covenant Center, but it was also enlightening. Our staff was able to meet the owners of these wonderful restaurants and hear their stories of how they were impacted by COVID-19. This virus knows no boundaries. It impacted these businesses, our agency and most importantly the guests we serve. The project coordinated by Bank of America helped all of us,” said John Gutman, Executive Director of New Covenant Center.