July 21st, 2016
July 18, 2016 – Twelve brand-new yellow tricycles, eighteen shiny red helmets, hundreds of yards of decorative tape, horns, light-up baskets, streamers, stickers — and five creative volunteers — all added up to one amazing community service project at Room to Grow Preschool (RTG) in Norwalk.
During an engagement meeting this past spring between Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) and Epsilon (a global marketing firm), an idea was hatched: what if Epsilon donated new tricycles for the preschool, which is operated by Catholic Charities?
Taking it up a notch, what if the Epsilon folks do what they do best … create something extraordinary out of something … ordinary?
And that’s just what happened. As part of their “Summer of Service,” project, Epsilon employees from the Wilton office submitted an internal application for a $2500 grant to pursue the RTG project idea. Once the application was approved, it was game on, and a cadre of Epsilon employees showed up at RTG in mid-July ready to bedazzle and bedeck the tricycles and helmets into the stuff that pre-school dreams are made of.
For over three hours the volunteers affixed horns and baskets to handle bars, rolled yards and yards of colorful duct tape around tricycle frames, attached license plates to seats and emblazoned helmets with glitzy stickers.
And then, the Epsilon crew rolled its festive fleet out onto the playground, where a dozen squealing students skipped over to the trikes, jumped on, and rolled away with glee.
To view more pictures from this event, click here.
Written by Ellen McGinness
Let It Grow!
July 20th, 2016
July 14, 2016 – Talk about getting your hands dirty! The Girl Scouts of Connecticut planted the very first organic garden at New Covenant Center, a soup kitchen and pantry program in Stamford run by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.
The endeavor sprouted from a chance meeting between troop leader Michele Emond-Breen and Jim McPartlan, a Catholic Charities of Fairfield County board member. After some brainstorming, they came up with the idea that the Girl Scouts, as part of a project to give back to the community, could build an organic garden for New Covenant Center (NCCenter). The vegetables and herbs would be offered in the pantry to families in need.
Easy to say — but how to do? David Lovegreen, the Volunteer Coordinator for NCCenter, knew just what to do: he called Maxon Keating of Fairgate Farms in Stamford. Keating arranged for three yards of discounted organic soil to be spread into concrete containers in the back of NCCenter. Keating himself donated all the seeds and seedlings for tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, radishes, basil, parsley and sunflowers — and taught the group some tricks and tips of the farming trade.
“I really wanted to build a garden so that we could grow something to help families and feed children,” explained Meghan Burke, a Girl Scout who has been in Emond-Breen’s troop since kindergarten. Burke has spent many hours volunteering for NCCenter, serving in the kitchen and running food drives for the pantry. But where did that passion to help others come from?
The rising sophomore at Notre Dame Catholic High School in Fairfield put it this way: “Part of it is growing up in Catholic schools — helping others is part of the culture. But I also love it because I can see the difference I’m making. I love being able to see who I’m helping.”
Edmond-Breen agrees. She hopes that the Girl Scouts will start a trend and build more gardens across the state, growing healthy food for healthier living:
“People think we’re all about the cookies. And yes that’s a big part of the Girl Scouts. But these girls really are making the world a better place.”
To see more photos from this event, visit our gallery here.
Written by Ellen McGinness
‘Mad Dog’ howls for Merton Center
June 20th, 2016
BRIDGEPORT—Legendary sports talk host Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo let out his trademark howl to begin the 22nd Annual Celebrity Merton Center Breakfast, and the morning went on to raise almost $150,000 for the downtown soup kitchen.
The breakfast brought together 300 business and civic leaders and friends of the Thomas Merton Center to the downtown Holiday Inn to support the center, which serves over 550,000 meals a year to those who gather at its tables.
Russo, the host of Sirius XM’s “Mad Dog Unleashed,” shared a few of his most treasured sports talk moments with the audience.
He said that on a recent show he got the chatter going by suggesting that Jerry West was far greater than Stephen Curry of the Warriors. After listening to callers go back and forth on the issue, he noticed that “Sam from Jacksonville was on Line 5” and had been waiting for a few minutes.
The caller turned out to be Boston Celtic great Sam Jones who spent the better part of a half hour reminiscing with the Mad Dog. “That kind of moment makes it all worthwhile to do the show,” said Russo, who added that he felt very fortunate “being in the right place at the right time” throughout his career as a sports commentator.
During the annual event, Father Charles Allen, SJ, of Fairfield University handled his usual role of bidding up giving to the Merton Center while delivering anecdotes and one-liners that had the audience roaring.
The bishop praised staff, board and volunteers for their efforts and their approach to caring for those served at those in need at Merton Center.
“We call them, ‘our guests,’ not clients, disadvantaged, poor and homeless. The guests are welcomed as part of our diocesan family.”
Dr. Brian Jenkins, director of Merton Center, told the gathering that prescription drugs and heroin are now the leading cause of death in the United States, taking more lives than automobile accidents and gun violence. He said guests to Merton Center have multiple-level needs and challenges, but they are “desperate to find solutions” and move on in their lives.
Dr. Jenkins presented the Joseph E. Mulcahy Creative Service Award to retired Sacred Heart University English professor Dr. Ralph Corrigan of Trumbull for his efforts in leading a creative writing class for Merton Center guests. Their poems and writings have been collected in a volume, “Poems from the Center.”
He said that Dr. Corrigan, a twenty-year volunteer at Merton Center, was also revered by guests for “making the best oatmeal in town.”
The breakfast was hosted by Bonnie Candee and Christine Hughes, co-chairs of the Merton Center Advisory Board.
The Thomas Merton Center, sponsored by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, serves breakfast and lunch to 350 people a day, provides take-home groceries for individuals and families through its food pantry, sponsors support groups and provides case management services to help guests finding housing and other basic needs. It is located at 43 Madison Ave., Bridgeport.
(For more information, call 203.367.9036 or visit www.themertoncenter.org.)
(Article from Fairfield County Catholic)
June 15th, 2016
“The Aetna Golf Classic is Still Swingin’”
By Ellen McGinness
Well over a hundred supporters of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) showed up with putters and drivers in hand to play in the annual Aetna Golf Classic, a benefit to raise money for the Bridgeport-based social services agency. Co-chaired by Jon Vaccarella and Bill Tommins, the popular event has raised millions for CCFC over two decades. During the day, the participants played a round of golf at the newly renovated Patterson Club in Fairfield. After hitting the links, these fans of CCFC bid on silent and live auction items, garnering about $80,000 to support the nonprofit, which is celebrating its centennial year.
To see more pictures from this event, click here to view our gallery.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen? Not on This Night!
June 8th, 2016
“A Social Night of Service Launches at New Covenant Center”
By Ellen McGinness
June 8, 2016 – Gamely sporting hair nets, potato peelers, oven mitts, and plastic aprons — over 30 young adults showed up at New Covenant Center (NCC) last night to prepare 150 dinners that will be served today to hungry clients.
The inaugural event, dubbed “A Social Night of Service,” brought together “under 30’s” from many different towns, parishes and backgrounds. Yet there was a single common denominator: to help feed the hungry.
Upon arrival, the volunteers walked into the dining room of NCC where Pandora music was playing on the surround sound speakers, beverages were chilling on ice, and salty snacks were open for the taking.
Paul Harinstein, President of the NCC Advisory Board, welcomed the group and thanked them for their time and willingness to help. “It’s people like you, who give up a free night when you could be doing so many other things but you’re here instead to help us cook — you’re the people who really make a difference. Thank you for coming.”
Father Andy Vill of St. John’s Parish then took the reins and clustered the volunteers into different work groups: potato peeling and cutting; chicken breading; carrot peeling and dicing; salad preparation; brownie mixing. Fr. Vill and NCC Head Chef Maria supervised their sous chefs, and in about 90 minutes — voila! 150 meals were prepared.
As a bonus for helping out, the volunteers ate some of the breaded chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, roasted veggies, and brownies they themselves had prepared. Over dinner they talked about where they had gone to college, where they currently work, what they like to do in their free time.
When asked if she would come back again to another “Social Night of Service,” a young woman named Katie replied, “Yes, definitely. I’ve always wanted to help, but was never really sure what to do. So this was great … and … I had a lot of fun doing it.”
Additional photos from this event can be viewed in our gallery by clicking here.