Fairfield County’s Community Foundation Launches County-Wide Civic Education Initiative

Monday, October 28, 2019

Awards Totaling $120K Go to NPOs Focused on Educating & Engaging Community About Civic Life; Initiatives Expected to Reach 10,000+ Residents

NORWALK, CT -- Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF) is continuing its commitment to strengthening civic engagement through a new Civic Education Grants Program. Concerned with a declining and/or limited focus on civic education in our formal education systems which is contributing to decreased knowledge about our democratic institutions and low voter participation in the county’s urban communities, the Community Foundation recently awarded a total of $120,000 to civic education projects committed to cultivating community knowledge and encouraging civic participation. The initiative is expected in reach more than 10,000 Fairfield County residents. More information can be found at  FCCFoundation.org/civic.

Civic Education Grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 were awarded to six grantee partners funding specific projects targeting underserved and civically under-represented populations within Fairfield County, including formerly incarcerated/returning citizens in Bridgeport; high school and college students from immigrant communities in Danbury; eligible and registered voters in Bridgeport with a focus on African-American and Latinx communities; Census hard-to-count populations in Bridgeport; youth in Norwalk and Stratford; and Spanish-speaking and immigrant parents in Bridgeport and Stamford. The grantee partners selected are Career Resources, Inc.; CT Students for a Dream; Faith Acts for Education; Make the Road CT; Bridgeport Generation Now; Serving All Vessels Equally (SAVE); and Special Education Legal Fund (SELF).

“The Community Foundation is dedicated to amplifying resident voice in Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut. We received outstanding proposals from a diverse array of organizations and are very excited to support the nonprofit projects selected. It is an honor to provide these opportunities for civic education with our grantee partners, because we know how important knowledge and information is to ensuring that every person can fully participate in our democracy. We hope to increase voter participation over time, but these grants are about more than the ballot box. The awards were given in the hopes of creating a lifetime of civic engagement for those engaged,” stated Mendi Blue-Paca, Vice President, Community Impact, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.

According to new research highlighted in FCCF’s Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2019, town-level voter turnout rates reinforce the finding that socioeconomic status affects participation in public life. Across the three most recent major elections, turnout rates were lowest in Bridgeport, at 41 percent in the 2018 midterm, 10 percent in 2017 municipal, and 56 percent in 2016 presidential elections. Turnout for those same elections in Fairfield County’s six wealthiest towns were 72 percent, 36 percent, and 83 percent, respectively. Low voter turnout is driven by a range of factors, including a lack of basic information on elections, distance to polling stations and hours of operation, inflexible work schedules, limited transportation, and other barriers that disproportionately affect economically distressed communities and communities of color. 

The Grantee Projects

  • Career Resources, Inc., is creating a state-wide education campaign about the voting rights of returning and justice-involved citizens and removing barriers to civic participation for this historically disenfranchised population.
  • CT Students for a Dream plans to educate and train immigrant youth leaders about how government works and how to use their voices to participate in democratic processes, and be self-advocates.  
  • Faith Acts for Education will be conducting voter education around municipal elections; producing and distributing nonpartisan voter information guides; and executing a Get Out The Vote operation to increase voter participation in Bridgeport, the county’s community with the lowest historical voter turnout.
  • Make the Road CT/Bridgeport Generation Now is directing outreach and education around the importance of the 2020 Census, and then plans to build an organizing infrastructure that will result in Bridgeport, the county’s hardest-to-count city, being completely counted. 
  • Serving All Vessels Equally (SAVE) is developing a Youth Reporters Program to train young people in how to analyze and report on political news and social justice issues in an effort to build youth power, and promote lifetime civic engagement and participation.
  • Special Education Legal Fund (SELF) will be educating Spanish-speaking parents about special education laws and policies to empower them to be effective advocates for their children.

“With our program, we hope to empower Spanish-speaking ESL families with foundational knowledge about the history, laws, and rights of children with disabilities, so they may more successfully advocate for their children in special education. We have seen first-hand how providing parents with this kind of knowledge about their child’s rights can materially improve their educational outcomes. We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with FCCF as one of our initial foundation funders. FCCF’s expertise, knowledge, and understanding of the community and its needs is vital for our organization’s growth and for our support of families in need with children in special education,” stated Christine Lai, cofounder and Executive Director, Special Education Legal Fund.

In 2018, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation launched its Civic Engagement Initiative because active resident engagement in civic life is critical to a healthy democracy and to the success and vitality of our county. The first component of this initiative, the inaugural Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Grants Program, was designed to increase voter registration and participation for all county residents and particularly members of communities that are historically underrepresented in the political process. Due to overwhelming interest from our nonprofit partners to support voter engagement, the initial GOTV Grants Program project budget was doubled, resulting in voter registration and/or activation of more than 10,000 county residents.

Scott K. Wilderman, President/CEO Career Resources, Inc., said, “We are grateful to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation for awarding Career Resources, Inc. this grant to promote and educate justice-involved adults on the importance in restoring their voting rights. The right to vote is at the core of our democracy, yet over 5 million American are not allowed to exercise this privilege because of a felony conviction. This disenfranchisement serves no legitimate purpose and bans mostly people of color from having their voices heard. This grant will allow us to work with policy makers, advocates, and community-based organizations to educate a justice-involved population on the mechanics necessary to restore their rights and regain their voice as American citizens.” 

Photo Caption: Fairfield County’s Community Foundation grantee, Career Resources, Inc. held their annual 2019 job fair.

About Fairfield County’s Community Foundation  

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation promotes philanthropy as a means to create change in Fairfield County, focusing on innovative and collaborative solutions to critical issues impacting the community. Individuals, families, corporations and organizations can establish charitable funds or contribute to existing funds. The Community Foundation is in compliance with the Council on Foundations’ national standards and has awarded over $230 million in grants to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond. As a trusted nonprofit partner and thought-leader, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation brings together community organizers, business experts, and philanthropists to close the opportunity gap. Our goal is to create a vital and inclusive community, where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. Learn more at FCCFoundation.org and follow us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIN. #TogetherWeThrive.



Helen L. Koven
Helen L. Koven LLC
Public Relations Consultant

Website & Social: www.FCCFoundation.org | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIN

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