The Darien Foundation celebrates 25 years of supporting the Darien community

The Darien Foundation is planning a year-long campaign to continue providing grants that improve education, public safety, and quality of life in Darien

The Darien Foundation is kicking off its 25th anniversary this month and will honor this milestone through a renewed commitment to providing grants to community-focused organizations in Darien.

The Darien Foundation has provided nearly $6 million in grants since it was founded in June 1998. These funds have helped support technology and capital initiatives which create opportunity for our youth, support our town’s safety and security, and enhance the overall quality of life in Darien.

Projects supported by Darien Foundation grants have included the Darien Heritage Trail of historic sites, the DCA Bird Sanctuary, the online catalog and website for the Darien Library, and recent initiatives for the Darien Police Department, Darien Fire Department, and EMS – Post 53. A full list of grants awarded by The Darien Foundation can be found here.

Starting this month, The Darien Foundation will begin a 25th year celebration which will continue through June 30th, 2024. The organization is recognizing this milestone as a celebration of the Darien community as a whole.

“As the community of Darien has grown over the past 25 years, we’ve evolved to support its ever-changing needs,” said Ward Glassmeyer, chairman of the Board of Directors and a 20-year member of the Board. “We were created by Darien residents, who continue to shape how we operate based on the needs of the community. Our original focus was on technology-based initiatives, and innovation remains a strong guiding principle. We’re proud to have broadened our efforts to support a wider range of projects and to make Darien a better place to live.”

One way The Darien Foundation plans to celebrate is by continuing to provide grant awards that enrich the Darien community. The organization’s current annual appeal, Darien Forward, continues through June 30th, 2023, with a theme looking ahead to further innovations and improvements.

The Darien Foundation is also recognizing its anniversary with a 25 Year/25th Anniversary pledge option, inviting donors to contribute $5,000 a year over five years for $25,000 in total. The organization led a similar effort for its 20th anniversary.

So far this year, the Darien Foundation has awarded $431,000 in grants. These include:

● $124,000 for the Darien Police Department

● $100,000 for the Darien Fire Department

● $100,000 for the Tiny Miracles Foundation

● $72,500 for DAF Media

● $36,000 for Darien Parks and Recreation

The Darien Foundation’s grants are also intended to support citizens of all ages. Some examples have included a turtle habitat ecosystem at the Darien Nature Center to educate young children, improvements at Weed Beach and the Darien Library that can be enjoyed by all residents and families, and two vehicles for At Home in Darien to provide transportation for seniors.

“Each grant we’re able to award makes a measurable improvement on the quality of life in Darien,” said Sarah Woodberry, Executive Director of The Darien Foundation. “We’re grateful for the support the community has given us over the past 25 years, and we look forward to continuing our work into the future.”

The Darien Foundation began in the summer of 1998 in response to a lack of computers in the Darien public school system. To address this need, local businessman Richard Chilton — founder of the Chilton Investment Company — and a group of Darien parents established the Darien Technology Foundation.

The first grant, awarded in the summer of 1999, provided $140,000 to establish teacher training labs at Darien High School. The goal of this initiative was to provide technology training to the school’s educators, who would then pass on this knowledge to their students and incorporate technology into their lesson plans. In 2000, funding from the organization introduced the first laptop loaners for students in Darien High School and Middlesex Middle School as well as laptops for all five elementary schools.

Since then, more than $1.5 million in grants have been awarded to the Darien Public Schools.

In 2006, the organization turned its lens on Darien’s first responders, providing technology such as mobile laptops, mapping software, and mobile data terminals to the Darien Police Department, Darien’s three volunteer fire departments, and EMS Post 53. The Darien Technology Foundation’s mission was expanded in 2008 to include capital projects in addition to technology projects, and the organization was renamed The Darien Foundation. The first such capital initiative was the Playground by the Sound at Weed Beach.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, The Darien Foundation partnered with the Corbin Cares initiative awarding nearly $200,000 to purchase meals from local Darien restaurants and caterers. These meals were then used to provide free lunches at Darien’s senior center and weekly family-style dinners for food insecure families, seniors, and others identified by the Darien Human Services Department. This initiative had the dual benefit of supporting Darien residents in need and assisting local businesses that were struggling during the pandemic.

“Darien is a wonderful place to live and raise a family, in part because of the dedication of The Darien Foundation,” said Monica McNally, Darien First Selectman. “Not many communities have an organization like The Darien Foundation, where individuals, organizations, and town departments can bring their big ideas and acquire funds for them. I know they’ll continue to be a valuable asset to Darien for years to come.”

Photo shows: Monica McNally (Darien's First Selectman), Sarah Woodberry (Executive Director of the Darien Foundation), Kiera Parrott (Director of the Darien Library), and Ward Glassmeyer (Chair of The Darien Foundation Board) at a recent gathering with the Darien Foundation Board and community members.


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