United Way of Western Connecticut has announced that more than 1,000 out-of-school activities for children in struggling families have been paid for by its ALICE Enrichment Fund since the program launched in 2017. More than 950 children have been served. The ALICE Enrichment Fund provides up to $300 per child per year, up to a maximum of $900 per family, to cover the cost of activities such as swimming lessons, sports program fees, music lessons, dance lessons, and robotics.
The program was created to help children who live in the hard-working, struggling families United Way of Western Connecticut calls ALICE® (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and who reside in the 15-town region it serves, including the City of Stamford, Northern Fairfield County, and Southern Litchfield County.
Thanks to the ALICE Enrichment Fund, school age children have been able to participate in everything from cooking classes to hip hop lessons and therapeutic horseback riding. Children have benefited in every town in United Way’s footprint. The programs can be rewarding and even life changing. One child, whose participation in musical theater has been funded, in part, by the program, is now attending an arts magnet school. A Stamford mother was able to send all three of her children to swimming lessons with funding from the program, giving her peace of mind to know that her children will be safe when near the water and can enjoy beach and pool activities.
“It takes the weight off of you because you want the best for your child, but sometimes you can’t give them more activities,” says a Danbury mother whose children have used the program for music and swimming lessons. “It helps you know that your children are well-rounded. It’s definitely a great program.”
On Fairfield County’s Giving Day, which is this Thursday, February 27, 2020, United Way is hoping to raise $15,000 for the ALICE Enrichment Fund to pay for activities for 50 children. Approximately 40 children are currently on waiting lists, and demand for the program will surge as spring sports start up. United Way has secured an anonymous dollar for dollar match for donations made to this fund as part of Fairfield County’s Giving Day, sponsored by Fairfield County Community Foundation. For more on donating to the ALICE Enrichment Fund on Fairfield County Giving Day, go to https://www.fcgives.org/organizations/united-way-of-western-connecticut
The ALICE Enrichment Fund is administered through community partners in towns served by United Way. The partners accept applications from parents and distribute the United Way funds to activity providers. The partners include town social service agencies and nonprofits that serve children and youth. For example, in Stamford the program is administered by Person to Person; in Danbury it is administered by Danbury Youth Services.
“This program was created in direct response to a need voiced by the ALICE parents we met with in Community Conversations,” said Isabel Almeida, United Way’s Interim President and Chief Operating Officer. “They were concerned that their children were not able to benefit from activities like swimming or soccer because of the cost. We all know how important enrichment activities are for children. Not only do they develop leadership skills and self-confidence, they build friendships and peer networks that last a lifetime. No child should miss out on these experiences simply because of the cost.”
Research from the RAND Corporation shows that higher-income families are able to spend seven times more on out-of-school and enrichment activities than low-income families. The Aspen Institute reports that sports participation rates among youth living in households with the lowest incomes ($25,000 or less) are about half that of youth from wealthier homes ($100,000+)—16 percent vs. 30 percent. In addition to the benefits of promoting exercise and building teamwork, sports and out-of-school activities can prevent drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other risky behaviors, during after-school hours that are often unsupervised by adults.