The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) announces its new Youth Program Manager, Heather Gordon. In this newly created role, Heather will oversee and coordinate TCF’s four student youth groups. Heather is an extremely involved volunteer, having previously partnered with organizations such as Young Life, Trinity Church, Save the Children, and the YMCA. A Pepperdine University graduate and Norwalk native, Heather is also working with Noroton Presbyterian Church as their Youth Ministry Associate and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Heather is excited to start this new chapter this fall with The Community Fund of Darien. When asked about her motivation to become involved with TCF, Heather responded, “In high school, my youth group was the first place I truly felt loved and accepted, which was in many ways due to my wonderful mentors. From then on, I knew my dream was to help change the world through meaningful relationships and be this role model for others.”
Janet King, The Community Fund’s Executive Director added, “Heather’s experience and genuine enthusiasm are a compliment to The Community Fund of Darien’s mission to inspire people and mobilize resources to strengthen our community. Heather will lead our youth groups to better understand local philanthropy and human service needs. We are delighted that Heather has joined our team!”
About The Community Fund of Darien Student Groups
Youth Community Fund
The Youth Community Fund (YCF), open to 10th-12th graders, introduces students to philanthropy and the role of nonprofits in our community. The group volunteers and evaluates local organizations and allocates money it raises to those that it deems most in need. According to Youth Community Fund member Ally Noonan, “It’s wonderful to learn how we can help our neighbors both through volunteerism and through a formal grant allocation process. The group has awarded grants over $13,500 this year.
Youth Asset Team
The Youth Asset Team (YAT) is another educational and impactful program The Community Fund of Darien offers to 10-12th graders. Students meet biweekly to discuss healthy choices, mental health, and continue to educate other teenagers and adults about substance and alcohol abuse in the community. Katie Chandler, one of the upcoming Presidents of YAT said that, “Youth Asset Team has impacted me tremendously because of the opportunities it has given me to grow as a person. The meetings are a place where students can have real conversations about issues in our community and make a difference. YAT allows students to gain confidence and leadership skills which is why it’s such an important group.” Not only does the Youth Asset Team strive to help and educate the community, it also develops students’ leadership skills throughout their time in this program.
Freshman Community Group
The Freshman Community Group is a group just for 9th grade students to help support them as they navigate the transition to high school, and serves as an introduction to the Youth Community Fund and the Youth Asset Team. The group is centered around engaging meetings with Andrew Tepper, the YAT advisor and a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) as well as community service projects.
Youth Give Back
The Community Fund of Darien has also established the Youth Give Back program for 7th and 8th grade students. Through this program, students are able to learn about problems within the community and create solutions or ways to help. The program is also designed so that students receive hands-on experiences through visits to local shelters and organizations. Sandi Sufrin, a mother of a Youth Give Back student and a current adult advisor of the program, said that “Ideally, it’s a more personal way of giving back to our neighbors. A side effect would be to create a love of volunteering and giving back to their community.” With the many student and adult volunteers, the middle schoolers are able to learn firsthand their impact within the community as well as build relationships with students who are passionate about helping and learning to serve others.
Looking for a way to connect with friends and family while supporting our community at the same time? Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to join The Community Fund of Darien’s first-ever “Community Chase” -- a virtual competition for teams of friends and families of all ages! Mission: Possible! is a fun-filled, socially distanced event that will take place the week of September 19th - 26th, 2020 and will benefit TCF’s nonprofit partners’ programs that strengthen youth, adults and families in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford.
Using a mobile device, teams of 4-6 players will be assigned points for each mission completed and players can track progress and rankings on a live leaderboard. Play casually, or be “in it to win it” for a chance to earn prizes and bragging rights! Missions will go live at 9am on September 19th; players will have until 6pm on September 26th to complete their challenges.
Sample missions include:
Teams are encouraged to share their mission photos on TCF’s Facebook and Instagram pages using the hashtag #TCFMissionPossible.
“Mission: Possible! is a great way to safely unite our community while respecting social distancing,” said Janet King, The Community Fund of Darien’s Executive Director. “We wanted to create a unique, fun and exciting activity that gives people the chance to explore and learn more about their hometown and our nonprofit partners, who provide so much support for our neighbors in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford.”
To participate, register at www.communityfunddarien.org ($50 per team, create your own team of 4-6 players.) Registration fees will directly support TCF’s local nonprofit partners. An email confirmation will contain TCF’s “Mission: Possible!” game code; download the free “Goose Chase” app on your iPhone or Android and enter the game code within the app to begin. To complete a mission, select it from the list and follow the instructions to receive the allotted points. Missions may involve submitting a photo or video, checking-in at a specific location or solving a puzzle or riddle. The choice is yours!
The Community Fund of Darien thanks the following sponsors for supporting Mission: Possible!: Noroton Presybterian Church, Hollow Tree Self Storage, Hutchinson Tree Care Specialists, Sasco River Center, Trinity Church, Darien Sport Shop, Andrew Stefanou Salon & Spa, Bankwell, Barrett Bookstore, Crescendo Music, Dance on the DL, Darien Running Company, Hands on Pottery, HAYVN, Helen Ainson, Sheree Frank with Houlihan Lawrence, Joyride, Kumon, Lanphier, Manhattan Marriage and Family Therapy, Performance Physical Therapy and Wellness, Precisely Pilates, Pure Barre and Rhone.
Thanks to the generous support of its donors and proceeds from the successful “Community Dinners for a Cause” series last spring, The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) is awarding $620,000 in large grants to 24 nonprofits serving Darien, Norwalk and Stamford to fund a broad spectrum of needs including at-risk youth, homelessness prevention, food insecurity, mental illness and more. Earlier this year, TCF also awarded $14,500 in small grants and $13,500 in grants allocated by its Youth Community Fund, bringing this year’s total to $648,000 in funding for 30 local nonprofits. The $620,000 large grant funding includes $40,000 in incremental COVID-19 relief funding to some of the organizations that have been most affected by the pandemic, particularly those addressing hunger, homelessness and providing emergency assistance.
Local nonprofits receiving TCF large grants are: Abilis, Americares Free Clinics, Building One Community, Carver Center, Child Guidance of Mid Fairfield, Child Guidance of Southern CT, Children’s Learning Centers, The Depot, Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Family & Children's Agency, Family Centers, Inc., Filling In the Blanks, Food Rescue US, Future Five, Inspirica, Kids In Crisis, Laurel House, Liberation Programs, New Covenant Center, Open Door Shelter, Pacific House, Person-to-Person, STAR, Lighting the Way and The Rowan Center. Small grants were given to ABC Darien, Darien YMCA, Food Rescue US, Horizons at NCCS, Norwalk ACTs, Norwalk Grassroots Tennis and Education, and Stamford Cradle to Career.
Each nonprofit that receives a grant is thoroughly vetted by TCF staff and trained local volunteers, ensuring that donor contributions are allocated where they will have the greatest benefit. Grant panels of 6-7 volunteers, composed of over 60 residents from Darien and neighboring communities, review and visit 2-3 local nonprofits each year to ensure that TCF is investing in the most effective nonprofit organizations. This past spring, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the grant review panelists conducted their research and site visits to the nonprofits virtually. Despite the changed format, the grant review volunteers were able to learn about each organization and determine the most critical needs of our community. Kate Haviland, Director of Development at Child Guidance Center of Southern CT noted, “From my own experience with TCF, it is clear that (the) team takes a thoughtful approach to really try to understand program nuances and community needs.” To learn more about volunteering as a grant panelist in the spring, an estimated 10-20 total hour commitment, please contact Grants Director Lisa Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The TCF grants address 12 areas of need including hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence, mental health, early childhood education, and after-school programs. The largest amount of this year’s grant funding supports youth mental health and the greatest increase in funding since last year is directed towards programs preventing hunger (up 126%). “Our partnership with The Community Fund of Darien is so important to us,” said Shari Shapiro, Executive Director of Kids in Crisis. “There is no doubt that the TeenTalk Program will be more important than ever as our young people navigate the new normal.” TCF funds the in-school counseling support program at Norwalk and Brien McMahon High Schools.
Recent grants have provided early childhood education to more than 1,100 children in Stamford, funded a work preparation and placement program which taught skills for 389 low-income immigrant clients to earn a living wage in the first six months of the program, and funded a free clinic in Norwalk that serviced approximately 650 patients a year for approximately 2900 medical visits.
The Community Fund of Darien also encourages youth to be a part of the grant allocation process. Its Youth Community Fund (YCF), with over 60 high school students members, learns about philanthropy and the role of nonprofits in our community. Members participate in a variety of volunteer projects at different local nonprofit organizations throughout the year and raise money through different community fundraisers, such as a bake sale and a rally towel sale before the annual Turkey Bowl football game. They participate in their own grant review process to determine which nonprofits should receive funding. YCF granted this year’s allocation of $13,500 to A Better Chance Darien, Building One Community, Carver Center, Children’s Learning Centers, Domestic Violence Crisis Center, Filling in the Blanks, Kids in Crisis, Inspirica, New Covenant Center, Open Door Shelter and Person-to-Person.
The Community Fund of Darien hosts 3rd “Community Dinner for a Cause” to Support Mental Health Programs
The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) invites all residents to join in the final evening of our “Community Dinner for a Cause” series on Saturday, June 20th to help improve the quality of life for our community. Proceeds from this dinner will support mental health programs. The first two dinners raised nearly $27,000 to fight food insecurity and benefit the homeless population.
Order a family meal prepared by The Darien Butcher Shop, which includes a bottle of wine and a craft beer provided by SipStirs, and The Community Fund of Darien will direct half your purchase to their local nonprofit partners providing mental health programs. TCF will provide free contact-less, doorstep delivery of your meal on Saturday, June 20th between 4-5:00pm.
The $150/per family (feeds 4-6) purchase, prepared by The Darien Butcher Shop, includes:
Orders must be placed by 5pm on Saturday, June 13th at www.communityfunddarien.org.
Enjoy on Saturday evening, or save your meal for Father's Day on Sunday! Together, we can strengthen our community.
The Thriving Youth Task Force (TYTF) is excited to announce that Georgette Harrison will assume the role of Executive Board Co-Chair for the 2020/21 school year. She has participated in TYTF since 2016, most recently as Subject Matter Expert. Harrison will succeed Sergeant James Palmieri, who will complete his term as Co-Chair this year after also serving as a member of the task force for many years and an officer on the executive board since 2019. Sergeant Palmieri will remain on the executive board as a liaison to the Darien Police Department.
Harrison brings vast research and clinical experience to the Thriving Youth Task Force. She is currently the Director of Clinical and Community Partnerships at the Child Guidance Center of Southern CT, an affiliate of Community Health Centers, Inc. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of CT and a rostered trauma-informed Child-Parent Psychotherapy clinician. Her clinical experience includes serving as the Director of Clinical Services for Integrated Wellness Group and as bilingual clinician at the Cornell Scott Hill Health Center Child and Family Guidance Clinic. She earned her Master of Arts and Master of Education degrees in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.
New to the Executive Board for the 2020/21 school year is Shelley Sheridan. Sheridan has lived in Darien for over 15 years and is deeply rooted in the community. As an advocate for the town of Darien and the surrounding coastal towns, she has served on various executive boards including the Council for Darien School Parents as the Community Outreach Chair, as Chair of the Tokeneke Elementary PTO, Directory Chair for the Middlesex Middle School PTO and Vice President of the Board for the Darien Nature Center. She is a local real estate agent with Houlihan Lawrence and lives in town with her husband and two children. Sheridan is passionate about the mental and physical health of our children and is excited to join the Thriving Youth Task Force.
The remainder of this year’s executive board will continue to serve in 2020/21. Shelly Skoglund will serve a second year as Co-Chair. Skoglund is a member of The Community Fund of Darien’s Board of Directors and has a long history of involvement and leadership in Darien PTOs, including chairing the Royle PTO and the Council of Darien School Parents. Susan Marks, a faithful community servant who was on the Board of Selectmen for 6 years and has volunteered in Darien for many years on school PTOs, the CDSP and many other committees, will continue to serve as the Vice-Chair. Marli Hayes, Membership and Community Outreach Manager of the YWCA Darien/Norwalk, and Janice Marzano, Director of the Youth Service Bureau for the Town of Darien and Program Director at Depot Youth Center, will serve as Co-Chairs of the Programming Committee. Finally, Emily Larkin, Thriving Youth Program Director at The Community Fund of Darien, will manage the “06820” campaign and the Connecticut Strategic Prevention Framework Coalition (CSC) Initiative grant to reduce binge drinking among teens.
The Thriving Youth Task Force is thrilled to welcome Georgette Harrison and Shelley Sheridan to their new roles and is deeply grateful to Sergeant James Palmieri for his leadership and insight as co-chair this year. His depth of experience working with the youth of Darien and the Darien Public schools is invaluable, and TYTF is thankful that he will continue on the board as a liaison between the task force and the Darien Police Department.
The Thriving Youth Task Force, which is convened by The Community Fund of Darien, was created in 2008. The TYTF brings together leadership from the town, the public schools, parent organizations and social service organizations that work with youth and parents to identify issues affecting the youth of Darien and to develop strategies and programs to promote and empower positive youth development. Every three years, the TYTF surveys Darien 7-12th grade students about their developmental assets (the building blocks of healthy development) and their involvement with risky behavior, presenting results to parents and the town. The TYTF members have provided insight and guidance for The Community Fund’s nationally recognized “06820” campaign to reduce binge drinking among adolescents in Darien.
The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) invites all residents to join in a second special evening of dining “together” at home to fund programs aimed at improving the quality of life for our community. This dinner, held on Saturday, May 30th, will benefit the homeless population and homelessness prevention efforts. The first event, held on May 9th, raised nearly $17,000 to fight food insecurity.
Order a family meal provided by Palmer’s Catering, which includes a bottle of wine provided by SipStirs, and The Community Fund of Darien will direct half your purchase to their local nonprofit partners providing stop-gap services and immediate assistance to our most vulnerable neighbors. TCF will provide free doorstep delivery of your meal on Saturday, May 30th from 3:45-5pm.
The $150/per family purchase includes:
Orders must be placed by 5pm on Wednesday, May 27th at www.communityfunddarien.org.
Stay social and host a virtual dinner party with friends, family and neighbors for a worthy cause! Together, we can make a difference.
Residents Invited to Help Local Businesses by Providing Cloth Masks for Employees
Due to the coronavirus health crisis, our current reality calls for wearing masks in public places and when not able to appropriately distance ourselves from others. This places a burden on local organizations and businesses, as their employees are required to wear masks at all times in order to operate and serve the community.
Several members of Darien’s Human Services Planning Council, which is convened by The Community Fund of Darien, stepped forward to create the Darien Mask Brigade, where individuals and groups may "adopt" a local business/organization and support their work by providing cloth masks for their employees. Masks can be homemade or purchased.
How Does It Work?
Join the movement!
Feed your family, fill your heart!
The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) invites all residents to join in a special evening of dining “together” at home to fight food insecurity on Saturday, May 9th.
Order a family meal provided by Michael Joseph’s Fine Foods, which includes a bottle of wine provided by SipStirs, for contactless pickup and The Community Fund of Darien will direct half your purchase to their local nonprofit partners who support soup kitchens, food pantries and meal delivery services to our neighbors in need.
The $150/per family purchase includes:
Orders must be placed by 5pm on Wednesday, May 6th at www.communityfunddarien.org. Contactless pickup will take place from 4 - 5pm on Saturday, May 9th at The Community Fund of Darien, Office Suites of Darien, 30 Old Kings Highway South, Darien.
Together, we can make a difference!
A virtual celebration of our community’s outstanding volunteers!
Since the coronavirus health crisis thwarted plans to honor Darien’s extraordinary volunteers in person at the planned April 30th event, The Community Fund of Darien (TCF) is continuing its 40+ year tradition virtually. This year’s honorees, Darien residents who have made a positive impact in and around our community, and the nonprofits they serve are:
Outstanding Adult Volunteer (19 - 64 years):
Julie Best - Tokeneke PTO
Cathy Butcher - Building One Community
Sean Calvillo - The Darien Foundation
Thomas Davidson - Kids in Crisis
Gordon Devens - Person to Person
Ashley Mayhew Dineen - The Tiny Miracles Foundation
AJ Discala - STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way
Andrea Jackson - Darien Arts Center
Kate Larson - Darien Historical Society
Sarah Lippman - Mather Homestead
Carolina McGoey - Darien High School Parents Association
Mara Neafsey - The Community Fund of Darien
Melissa Ryan - At Home in Darien
John Schrenker - Darien YMCA
Michael Sgroe - Darien Land Trust
Doug Wilson - Blue Wave Booster Club
Outstanding Emerging Volunteer (18 years and younger):
Campbell McEvoy - Norwalk Stamford Grassroots Tennis and Education
Outstanding Senior Volunteer (65 years and older):
Judi Linskey - Darien Community Association
Jane Marrone - The Carver Foundation of Norwalk
Michael Wheeler - Family Centers, Inc.
Outstanding Volunteer Duo:
Erica Jensen and Corrie Belardinelli - Darien Chamber of Commerce
Evonne Klein and Susan Vogel - League of Women Voters of Darien
Outstanding Volunteer Team (3 or more individuals dedicated to a cause):
Chris Harwick, Todd Herget, Brett Tucker and Patrick Spellman from the Darien Junior Football League - nominated by Doug Wilson
The First Congregational Church of Darien Open Doors Shelter Team - nominated by Open Doors
Andrew Popson, Kaitlyn Popson, Nick Hoyt, Colleen Hoyt and Jack Briggs from Helping Hands - nominated by Darien Human Services
Allison Law, Christa FitzPatrick, Lauren Stissor and Katherine Grambling of the Ox Ridge Elementary School Kids Care Club - nominated by Family and Children’s Agency
“While we are disappointed that we can’t share this recognition with our honorees and their families, friends and co-volunteers in person, we did not want to miss the opportunity to acknowledge their accomplishments,” said Janet King, Executive Director of The Community Fund of Darien. “We can all use some good news right now, and we are proud to celebrate these wonderful Darien residents who tirelessly give their time and talent to benefit our local community.”
Nominations were requested from local nonprofits, and the public was also invited to offer submissions recognizing Darien residents who have made a difference in and around our community. TCF thanks Brown Thayer Shedd and Halstead Properties for their generous support of this celebration.
Corbin Cares, The Community Fund of Darien, The Darien Foundation, and Food Rescue US to lead efforts to fund and distribute healthy and safely delivered meals
With local restaurants closed except for take-out and delivery, and financial instability looming for an increasing number in our community due to the coronavirus pandemic, several Darien businesses, nonprofits and town agencies have created a solution to address food insecurity for residents of Darien and of surrounding communities in need.
The Community Fund of Darien, The Darien Foundation and Food Rescue US are joining forces with Corbin Cares, a new initiative launched by Baywater Properties and PG Properties, to fund, organize, and provide ready-to-eat, healthy and safely prepared meals from local restaurants to Darien seniors in need, residents referred by Darien’s Department of Human Services, and local nonprofits that feed the food-insecure of Fairfield County.
The project, which has the support of Darien’s Department of Public Health and the First Selectman’s Office, is expected to begin this week. Donations to Corbin Cares will be managed by The Community Fund of Darien, a 501c3, to provide tax documentation for donors. Donations will be 100% tax deductible. The funds will be disbursed to eateries including Bodega Taco Bar, Ten Twenty Post, Baldanza Bistro, Four Forks, Jake's Place and Upper Crust Bakery and Cafe. Their meals will then be transported by Food Rescue US to local social service agencies in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford that are providing for individuals and families that are food insecure. Donations of $5 will provide breakfast, $15 will buy a boxed lunch and $20 will supply a healthy dinner. Tax-deductible contributions can be made through Corbin Cares at:
David Genovese of Baywater Properties said “the incredible support for Corbin Cares received from our community, The Darien Foundation and The Community Fund of Darien demonstrate the astounding generosity of those around us. My partner, Penny Glassmeyer, and I are proud to have initiated this program, which will provide thousands of meals during this crisis for healthcare workers on the front line, as well as those experiencing food insecurity in our community-at-large.
The Darien Foundation has fast-tracked a $75,000 grant to fund Corbin Cares within Darien. The program will replace the lunches that were served at the now closed Senior Center with individually boxed lunches that will be distributed under social distance protocols. The program will also provide a robust family-style dinner each week to approximately 75 families who receive assistance from Darien’s Department of Human Services. “We have worked closely with town leadership and Corbin Cares to frame how this program could replace the lunch programs no longer available at the senior center and the public schools,” said Sarah Woodberry, the Executive Director of The Darien Foundation. “Also, our underwriting of Corbin Cares in Darien will allow the monies raised by the Corbin Cares’ intiative to stretch further throughout our neighboring communities.”
In addition to collaborating with Corbin Cares and Food Rescue US, The Community Fund of Darien will continue to provide our town’s residents in need with emergency assistance for rent, utilities, medical expenses, transportation costs and groceries through its “Touch-A-Life” fund, in cooperation with Darien’s Department of Human Services. “During this stressful and uncertain time, the silver lining is finding a way to work together as a community to get food and aid to those in need from generous neighbors who care,” noted Janet King, the organization’s Executive Director.
Darien residents in need should contact the Department of Human Services at 203-656-7328 or email Ali Ramsteck, Director, at email@example.com.