Funding will support The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and New Covenant Center in Stamford impacting the 150-200% increase in demand for services.

Fairfield, Connecticut – July – Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, one of the largest private social service providers in the state of Connecticut, was awarded a $30,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.

Funding will go directly to supporting Catholic Charities’ soup kitchen and food pantry programs located in Bridgeport and Stamford. Reducing hunger and providing nutrition to those in need are central to Catholic Charities of Fairfield County’s mission. The agency serves the neediest in Fairfield County, which ranks first nationally in income inequality when compared to the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and where the cost of living is high. Two of Catholic Charities’ largest initiatives are The Thomas Merton Center (Merton) in Bridgeport and New Covenant Center (NCC) in Stamford which have seen a 150-200% increase in demand for nourishment since the pandemic began.

“With the partnership and support of Bank of America, we will be able to continue to feed our neighbors and show them the kindness and respect that all members of our communities deserve,” states Catholic Charities Executive Director Mike Donoghue. “Bank of America helps us meet the clients where they are by providing a hand up, not a hand out. Our partnership ensures that we can continue to provide critical assistance in the Bridgeport and Stamford communities.”

Donoghue noted that while the partnership between Catholic Charities of Fairfield County and Bank of America started over a decade ago, it was in August 2020, at the height of the pandemic, when the bank awarded Catholic Charities with a grant that enabled their two soup kitchens to purchase meals from local restaurants and distribute them to the hungry and homeless in Stamford and Bridgeport. It was a unique endeavor that not only aided the local non-profit, but also came to the rescue of restaurants struggling to survive and remain opening during the toughest of times.

With supplies running short, this month Bank of America provided Catholic Charities with a donation of 280 bottles of hand sanitizer and 28,000 latex gloves. This shipment is the third from Bank of America to the nonprofit with with 12,000 masks, 6,000 gloves, and 500 bottles of hand sanitizer previously being sent for distribution among the agency’s 36 programs throughout Fairfield County.

Since the start of the coronavirus, protective personal equipment (PPE) supplies have been low and costs have been high, making it even more challenging for non-profit agencies like Catholic Charities to secure what is required to stay open for business. For an agency like Catholic Charities, closing because masks and gloves are not available is simply not an option.

“There is an urgent and life-saving need for these programs,” states Thomas Merton Center Director Bill Colson. “Bridgeport is Connecticut’s most populous and poorest city as 35% live below the federal and state poverty level. With a high unemployment, homeless and poverty rate, demand has increased by almost 150% this year as the pandemic has negatively impacted the City of Bridgeport on many levels.”

Stamford has a high poverty rate as well. The New Covenant Center is located in a food desert and is the largest soup kitchen in the City. New Covenant currently single-handedly serves approximately 30% of food insecure individuals and households in Stamford.

“Addressing community needs through our philanthropic investments is just one way that we are working with our nonprofit partners to build a more sustainable community and support our local economy,” said Bill Tommins Southern Connecticut Market President for Bank of America. “We’re honored to continue to be a critical partner for Catholic Charities as they address some of today’s most prevalent issues and help lay a foundation for individuals and families who struggle to access basic needs throughout the Southern Connecticut region.”

Since the onset of the Coronavirus, Catholic Charities has seen an increase in donations and has been able to apply for COVID relief funding. Although January 1st ushered in a new year and the roll out the vaccine is moving the country towards a new normal, the pandemic lingers on as does the need for front line social service agencies to exercise precaution. Catholic Charities has been able to keep our doors open and feed the increasing number of homeless, unemployed and low-income neighbors in need in our community because of this funding phenomenon. It is not expected that this type of support will continue as no one anticipated the gravity of the crisis, how long it would last and the intense financial and socioeconomic impact it has had on the underserved in our community.

Catholic Charities 36 programs provide services throughout Fairfield County. Combined, they serve over 10,000 individuals in Fairfield County, Connecticut each year. During the pandemic, Catholic Charities has been the largest food resource provider, serving well over 1 million meals throughout Fairfield County.

Written by Amy Zajac