Taking Steps to Close the Opportunity Gap by Collaborating with Legislators & Nonprofit
NORWALK, CT -- Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s (FCCF) launched this year’s Legislative Forums in December at FCCF’s headquarters in Norwalk and at UConn’s Stamford campus. The focus of this year’s forums was to deepen and strengthen the nonprofit community’s relationships with state and local elected officials while highlighting the Community Foundation’s new strategic work to close the opportunity gap in Fairfield County in collaboration with its nonprofit partners.
The Community Foundation utilized this gathering of legislative and nonprofit thought leaders to introduce their strategic goals while highlighting FCCF’s core values of equity; diversity and inclusion; collaboration and integrity. The strategic plan aims to create lasting change by preparing high school students to graduate and be prepared for post-secondary education and employment; having older youth and young adults trained with the skills they need to be successful in life; ensure the economic security, health and safety of women and girls and to pursue safe, stable healthy and affordable housing for all Fairfield County residents.
The Legislative Forums have become annual events for FCCF and are held in several locations across Fairfield County. This year’s forums concentrated on the collaborative opportunity to identify and discuss structural and policy barriers that may impede nonprofits work closing the opportunity gap. They were developed to support nonprofit leaders to build relationships, knowledge and skills to make them better advocates for their organizations and the communities they serve.
“This year’s legislative forums are particularly exciting and essential as we face the challenges to close the opportunity gap. For many of us, it was the first opportunity to meet with some of our newly elected legislators and welcome back those who were reelected or currently serving their terms. Bringing together these bright minds, bold leaders and trusted resources to take steps to close the opportunity gap in Fairfield County and to truly collaborate for a meaningful purpose and goal is dynamic, “stated Juanita James, President and CEO, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. “Starting the dialogue and beginning the conversation is key to successfully implementing our efforts to collaboratively effect change across these sectors. The Community Foundation recognizes that the opportunity gap cannot be addressed by one organization alone and that we must work across sectors – public, private, nonprofit – for lasting change.”
The Norwalk Legislative Forum held at the Community Foundation’s headquarters was attended by State Senator Bob Duff, Norwalk; State Representative Gail LaVielle, Norwalk; Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling; State Representative-elect Lucy Dathan, New Canaan and State Senator Tony Hwang, Fairfield along with representatives from nonprofit partners including Adam Bovilsky, Norwalk Housing Authority; Marianne Ho Barnum, Horizons at Brunswick; Amy Taylor, Norwalk Community Health Center; Pamela George, Serving All Vessels Equally, Inc.; Nancy Von Euler, Horizons at New Canaan Country School; Judy Phillips, YWCA Darien/Norwalk; Keenan McMahon, Horizons at Norwalk Community College; Elaine Harris, Child Advocates of SW Connecticut; Stacey Sobel, Child Advocates of SW Connecticut ; Lisa Haas, Community Fund of Darien; Marissa Mangone, Child Guidance Center of Southwest CT, Inc.; Susan Gilgore, The Lockwood – Mathews Mansion Museum; Maria Escalera – Norwalk Community Health Center; Betty Cordellos, Norwalk Community Health Center; Geraldine Floyd, NAACP Norwalk; Michael Ferguson, Kids in Crisis; Hope Redding, Construction Workforce Initiative 2; Lisa Wilson, Construction Workforce Initiative 2 ; Novelette Peterkin, Carver Foundation of Norwalk, Inc.; Kara Capone, Norwalk Housing Authority; Elsi Pacheco, Pacific House; Val Guilford, Urban League of Southern Connecticut; Lee Ann Fallet, Keystone House, Inc. ; Corky Stewart, Open Door Shelter; Carrie Bernier, Norwalk Community College Foundation; Laura Smits, League of Women Voters of Norwalk and Margaret Watt, Southwest Regions Mental Health Board.
The Stamford Legislative Forum held at UCONN Stamford was attended by State Representative-elect Steve Meskers; State Representative Dan Fox; State Representative-elect David Michel; State Representative-elect Matt Blumenthal; State Representative Patricia Billie Miller; State Senator Carlo Leone and Gerard Fox, III, Judge in the Stamford Probate District along with representatives from nonprofit partners including Jennifer O’Gorman, Abilis; Laura Lategui, Abilis; Dahlia Grace, Connecticut Legal Services, Inc.; Adriana Ospina, Abilis; Amy Montimurro, Abilis; Margaret Carter, Saint Joseph Parenting Center; Ian Taylor, Project Music; Mark Lingle, St. Francis Episcopal Church ; Lana Gifas, Women’s Mentoring Network; Michelle Lappas, Connecticut Youth Services Association; Alice Knapp, The Ferguson Library; Cara Donovan, United Way of Western Connecticut; Sofie Sandone, United Way of Western Connecticut; Eliot Brenner, Child Guidance Center of Southwest Connecticut, Inc.; Anne Downey, Building One Community; Rachel Dewey, Future 5; Jessica Feighanm The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education; Yazmin Iglesias, All Our Kin; Ingrid Gillespie, Communities 4 Action; RJ Mercede, Hilarity for Charity; Rafael Pagan, Pacific House; Leigh Shemitz, SoundWater; Andrew Martin, DOMUS; Jeffrey Shaw, CT Community Nonprofit Alliance; Carol Shattuck, Food Rescue US; Shawn Patch, YMCA; Ceci Maher, Person-to-Person and Alex Horton, Social Venture Partners Connecticut.
Attendees were invited to have conversations about how the work they are doing is helping to rebuild Connecticut’s economy, as well as, discussing what policies and/or regulations make it challenging for them to do their work. They also had a lively conversation about what type of tools and partnerships they believe would change outcomes in a positive fashion. Questions posed to the legislators included where do you see the greatest opportunity for change and where do you see the greatest challenges in addressing structural and policy barriers.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation has a history of strong relationships with their nonprofit partners, supporting them both financially and providing resources to help them grow and thrive through their Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Established in 2009, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence annually serves approximately 400 local nonprofits developing leaders, improving operations and fostering collaboration.
Plans are in place to host two more regional Legislative Forums in Bridgeport and Danbury in January 2019.
Photo Caption 1: Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s this year’s Legislative Forums in Norwalk at the Foundation headquarters. The focus of this year’s forums was to deepen and strengthen the nonprofit community’s relationships with state and local elected officials while highlighting the Community Foundation’s new strategic work to close the opportunity gap in Fairfield County in collaboration with its nonprofit partners. Norwalk State Senator, Gail LaVielle, recapped her group’s discussion about what policies and/or regulations make it challenging for them to do their work.
Photo Caption 2: Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Legislative Forums focus on strengthening relationships between nonprofit leaders and elected officials to encourage them to work together for community impact. The Community Foundation utilized this gathering of legislative and nonprofit thought leaders to introduce their strategic goals while highlighting FCCF’s core values of equity; diversity and inclusion; collaboration and integrity. In Stamford, The Stamford Legislative Forum panel discussion was led by Juanita James, FCCF CEO & President and attended by numerous legislators and nonprofit partners.
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 $220 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.
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