Westport Y awards $250,000 in grants to close “achievement gap”
WESTPORT— “A fantastic partnership.”
That’s how Elsie Lopez, executive administrator of the Norwalk-based Carver Foundation, described the agency’s relationship with the Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund, which on Dec. 16 distributed $250,000 in funding to 18 local nonprofits.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to receive this on behalf of the Carver,” Lopez said upon accepting the check from Gloria Nussbaum, a committee member with the Bedford Family Fund, at the Westport Weston Family YMCA.
Lopez was one of 18 representatives from nonprofit organizations throughout Fairfield County who received grant funding to continue their work in serving the educational needs of children and young adults with the specific goal of reducing educational achievement disparity among students.
The one-year grants, which ranged from $5,000 to $22,500, were made possible from a donation by the late Ruth Bedford, a YMCA trustee emeritus and granddaughter of Edward Bedford, who founded the Westport YMCA in 1923. The Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund was established in 2015 to support local programs and those selected were chosen by the fund’s committee from a pool of over 70 applications.
“We’re going to expand the offering of our STEM program,” Charles Flowers, the CEO of Boy Scouts of America Connecticut Yankee Council, said. The Connecticut Yankee Council, which received $10,000, is the local chapter of the Boy Scouts of America and provides services for 12,800 youth and 4,200 volunteers throughout Fairfield and parts of New Haven counties.
Also receiving $10,000 was Homes with Hope, a Westport organization tasked with combatting homelessness by providing emergency shelter, permanent supportive housing and the tools to achieve independence. The grant will be used for a new initiative in the program — a service aimed at helping the children of the adults they shelter.
“For 30 years we’ve been doing a really good job with adults, but a third of our 115 people, about 30 of them, are children,” Homes with Hope CEO Jeff Wieser said. “And this is really going to allow us to do a much better job in both the emergency shelter and the supportive housing.”
Wieser added that the money will go to after school programs like tutoring.
The selection committee will continue to monitor the organizations throughout the year to see how they are progressing.
Adam J. Lewis Preschool, Bridgeport
Carver Foundation, Norwalk
Central Connecticut Coast YMCA
Connecticut Yankee Council—Boy Scouts
Council of Churches, Janus Center, Bridgeport
Hall Neighborhood House, Bridgeport
Homes with Hope, Westport
Horizons at Greens Farms Academy, Bridgeport
Horizons at Sacred Heart, Fairfield
Klein Memorial Auditorium, Bridgeport
Mercy Learning Center, Bridgeport
Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, Bridgeport
Project Morry, serving Bridgeport
Riverbrook Regional YMCA, Wilton and Norwalk
St. John’s Family Center, Bridgeport
Staples Tuition Grants, Westport
Urban Impact of Blackrock, Bridgeport
“We expect that each of these organizations will continue to do their very good work in closing that achievement gap. We will be in touch with them throughout the year,” Jen Tooker, a member of the selection committee said.
Westport Weston YMCA CEO Pat Riemersma said she does not know of another YMCA across the country that has had the opportunity to awards such grants.
“The Y is here for the community and this is just a small way that we can share some of the benefits that we’ve gotten from this wonderful bequest into the community and you know, we’re all about the kids,” she said. “We’re helping the kids.”
Leslie Lake contributed to this report.