WATERBURY, CT -- In 2014, Jack Baker, then the chair of the Connecticut Community Foundation’s Board of Trustee’s, had a vision: What if the current and former trustees who had led and served the Foundation over the decades pooled their experience and resources and created a fund that would complement the grants the Foundation makes every year throughout its 21-town region?
From that idea, the Connecticut Community Foundation Trustee Fund was born. The members of the fund decided they did not want to make traditional competitive grants, but instead wanted to offer an annual award that would recognize organizations and people in the community whose work truly embodied partnership and collaboration, core values of the Foundation. “We wanted to highlight efforts that set an example to others by doing putting aside competition, egos, and differing interests to come to one table and to do important things that any one group or person couldn’t do effectively alone.,” explains Baker.
On August 20, the Trustee Fund honored the two recipients of its first-ever Trustee Fund Award: River Smart CT, a collaboration of several local environmental organizations and land trusts, and Almost Home Summer Camp, an educational and recreational summer program created this year for children in Waterbury’s WOW Neighborhood.
River Smart CT engages residents and business owners near the Aspetuck, Pomperaug, Naugatuck, Housatonic, and Farmington Rivers in land use practices that can help improve the health of these rivers and waterways throughout the surrounding watersheds. River Smart CT is a collaboration of Housatonic Valley Association, Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition, Kent Land Trust, Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Farmington River Watershed Association, Steep Rock Association, Warren Land Trust, and the Lake Waramaug Task Force.
“Coming together has enabled us to combine the river and water expertise of HVA, PRWC, Rivers Alliance, Lake Waramaug Task Force and the Farmington River Watershed Association, with the landowner expertise of local land trusts. This collaboration literally created the RiverSmart campaign from the bottom up,” observes Lynn Werner, Executive Director of Housatonic Valley Association.
Almost Home Summer Camp is a grassroots summer program in Waterbury organized by neighborhood activist Erika Cooper and local community leaders. From June through August, the camp provided 74 preschool through eighth grade Waterbury children a chance to expand their academic skills while becoming engaged in their neighborhood and having fun. The camp arose from the collaborative efforts of the following Trustee Fund Award honorees: Arlene Arias, Brass City Kings, Bridge to Success Community Partnership, Central Naugatuck Valley Regional Action Council, Cheshire Horse Council, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Erika Cooper, Raechel Guest, Juanita Hernandez, Tyquanda Johnson, Kingdom 1st Church, Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury, Cyril "CJ" May, Neighborhood Housing Services, Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury, Uplifting a Life Parents Committee, and WOW/NRZ Community Learning Center.
As Cooper, who accepted the award on behalf of the collaborative, recalled, “Many kids in this neighborhood had nothing to do over the summer, had families struggling to provide for them, and were two years behind academically. They needed a place to go where they could learn, enjoy healthy meals, and have fun. We didn’t ask ‘can we do it’ or ‘can we find the money’. We just got together and made it happen. ‘Can’t’ isn’t a word we use in our program, and it isn’t part of our vocabulary.”
The Connecticut Community Foundation Trustee Fund plans to make awards annually.
Founded in 1923 as the Waterbury Foundation, the Connecticut Community Foundation was the first community foundation in the state.
The Foundation’s mission is to foster creative partnerships that build rewarding lives and thriving communities. Serving 21 towns in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills, the Foundation administers more than 460 charitable funds established by local donors with combined assets of over $94 million. Funds reflect a variety of philanthropic interests and support a range of giving opportunities in the arts, environment, health care, education, human services and women’s and children’s issues.
With this support, the Foundation provides grants and services to nonprofit organizations and scholarships to students. Volunteers and staff offer their expertise by serving on committees and supporting special initiatives that effect positive change, growth and improve the quality of life in our region.
Photos: (Left) River Smart CT collaborative partners; (right) Almost Home Summer Camp collaborative
Connecticut Community Foundation
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