July 21st, 2021
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
The Thomas Merton Center Event Raises Money to Meet the Needs of the Hungry in Bridgeport
June 23rd, 2021
BRIDGEPORT – The Thomas Merton Center recently wrapped up its spring virtual fundraiser – A Day in the Life of The Thomas Merton Center. Over $310,000 was raised with money still coming in. This event was in lieu of the center’s usual in-person Celebrity Breakfast but still brought out the Celebrities.
Hosted by Bridgeport native John Ratzenberger providing a voice over from Pixar Studios in California, the event does just what its title indicates. It follows a typical day in the life of TMC dealing with the complex issues of COVID while continuing to provide guests food and groceries. The event’s primary sponsor, Mark Kelly of Safety Marking, Inc. generously matched every dollar raise, helping the program reach its goal of $300,000. Other sponsors included Ridgefield Thrift, Aquarion and Bank of America. Many individuals went above and beyond to do on-line fundraising for the event which raised program awareness.
The video features staff, volunteers and guests of TMC. Kenneth Graham who was a guest, now gainfully employed and coming into TMC to volunteer his time in the kitchen preparing meals states “I found the staff would listen…..I feel like I should give back because they were here for me.” Yashira Cruz, who with her family of 4 not only utilizes the food panty but also helps out in the garden. As Yashira stated, “It is important to have these resources because without them I wouldn’t have….I’m trying not to cry…I don’t have family here, so to me they are my family and when I need help they’re there.”
The Thomas Merton Center is a program of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County which operates a day shelter that is the largest soup kitchen and the largest food pantry, the EatSmart Market Place, in Bridgeport. The program is committed to providing a loving, safe and hope-filled community atmosphere that responds to the needs of its guests and residents and respects the dignity of each person. The Thomas Merton Center reflects to the individual and the community our shared responsibility to love and support one another.
NCC Hybrid Event Raises Money For Those In Need
May 18th, 2021
STAMFORD—New Covenant Center held their first-ever combination live fundraiser and live stream event. Over $155,000 was raised, so far, at the 17th Annual Celebrity Soiree event at Woodway Country Club in Darien.
Married Fairfield County couple Hannah Storm of ESPN and Dan Hicks of NBC Sports entertained the crowd with sports stories and New Covenant Center Advisory Council member Jose Rivera was awarded the 6th Annual Founder’s Award. The most moving moment of the evening was 13-year-old Katie Pineda’s reading of her mother Norma’s appreciation of the groceries and other services she receives from New Covenant Center.
“As we look ahead, there is much work to be done. First, we must get our guests back inside the center so they can eat their meals in a dignified environment, while resuming other services such as showers, haircuts, job skills training and immigration counseling. Feeding the hungry in our soup kitchen/café and food pantry is our core mission, but providing a safe environment and long-term solutions and self-sufficiency for our guests is important,” states Director John Gutman.
New Covenant Center has been operating with mostly 800 volunteers staying at home, but still providing meals and sandwiches to guests and other area non-profits.
The mission of New Covenant Center is to provide a nutritious meal to all those who are hungry. This is accomplished from their 8,000 sq. ft. facility located at 174 Richmond Hill in Stamford. The facility includes an efficient and modern kitchen, a welcoming dining area, expanded food storage area and refrigeration, a spacious food pantry area and additional space for other services. New Covenant Center serves almost 5,000 unduplicated people annually. Stamford’s one and only soup kitchen serves over 600,000 each year, providing 200,000 meals to soup kitchen/café guests (2x per day and to several other non-profit agencies’ clients). An additional 400,000 meals are served from the food pantry, providing disadvantaged families with groceries, meat, vegetables and produce.
Founded 41 years ago, New Covenant Center is an inter-faith project of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, serving the homeless, elderly, disabled, working poor, and children. No one is turned away. There are no requirements to enter the New Covenant Center doors, except a mutual exchange of respect and dignity.
(For more information on the Celebrity Soiree and to view the event video in its entirety, please go to www.event.gives/nccsoiree2021 or contact Leisa Hinds Simpson at [email protected] To learn more about the services provided by New Covenant Center visit their webpage at www.newcovenantcenter.org.)
Room to Grow Recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month
April 27th, 2021
“April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time for the community to come together to show its support for children and families.” Catholic Charities of Fairfield County-Room to Grow Family Resource Center participated in Child Abuse Prevention Day, on Thursday April 1, 2021, to help recognize that April is Child Abuse prevention month by wearing blue to show support. The social and emotional well-being of our children is a priority at Catholic Charities-Room to Grow Family Resource Center. For this reason, Room to Grow Family Resource Center Director, Nancy Owens along with Program Counselor, Vanessa Hernandez Gomez, and their team, worked in collaboration with Joe Dudek, President of the Exchange Club and two of his staff members to help raise awareness and prevent child abuse in our Norwalk, CT community. Informative material, giveaways and treats were provided to each family who was involved and participated of the event. The main goal for Catholic Charities-Room to Grow Child Abuse Prevention Day event was to help educate and empower their Room to Grow families by engaging them and providing them with information on taking steps towards child abuse prevention. The team recognizes that it is vital that agencies and families work together to help strengthen prevention efforts within our communities.
Family of Bridgeport man who died of cancer raises money in his memory for Merton Center
April 26th, 2021
Anthony Mobilio, who passed away from cancer in January, was a big supporter of the Merton Center. Mobilio was the owner of Mobilio & Son Heating and Cooling. The last job he agreed to do was to install a new boiler for the charity.