United Way Announces Community Innovation Grants for 17 Partners

Fairfield County, CT - United Way of Coastal Fairfield County has announced investments in 17 community partners to increase equity and opportunity in three impact areas:  health, education, and financial stability.  Awards were made to organizations serving each of the12 towns in the United Way service area, and each ranged from $5,000 to $20,000 (list below).

“We are proud to partner with you to empower people to improve their lives,” commented Margo Amgott, United Way Interim President & CEO.  “I am truly inspired by the innovative work being done to meet community needs.”

Investments were made though United Way’s Impact Philanthropy Fund. Recipients were chosen by a diverse committee of 15 community volunteers, staff, and United Way Board members. from a pool of 62 applicants.  Proposals were evaluated based upon their innovative approach and their ability to promote equity and opportunity.  Selection criteria also included extent of impact, objective measurements of success, and a willingness to collaborate in learning and sharing data on outcomes.

According to Katerina Vlahos, United Way Director of Community Impact and leader of the granting process, “We are pleased that this round of grant funding reaches broadly into the twelve communities we serve.  It represents a wide range of initiatives, including books for families of newborns in Bridgeport, workforce development of youth in Norwalk, and food and summer camp supports for families in Stratford.”  

At the award presentation, grant recipients provided keen insight into the impact and importance of their initiatives. 

According to Carla Miklos, Executive Director of Operation Hope, “Everyone deserves an opportunity for positive change, and that starts with a stable home.  But a big barrier to housing access is the lack of security deposits, and federal funds can’t be used for that purpose. This United Way grant will fund deposits to help clients find both housing and financial stability at the same time, since once stably housed, clients are able to gain, keep and increase employment.”

Michael Testani, Superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools, noted, “If students aren’t reading on grade level by the Fourth Grade, their chances of graduating high school are greatly diminished.  This grant from United Way will help support our struggling readers with a proven intervention, so that they will meet that critical benchmark.”

One grant recipient offered a personal story of the need for an innovative suicide prevention approach. “I am a survivor of several suicide attempts.  That’s why I’m excited to bring this initiative to a community that I recovered in and that I also struggled in.  This therapy model allows clients to focus on what’s affecting us, and importantly, on what’s keeping us here,” commented Allison Kernan, Peer Support Specialist at Westport-based Positive Directions.  The grant will be used to expand capacity and use of the peer support model, “Alternatives to Suicide.”  According to Executive Director Vanessa Wilson, this model allows a “safe space” to discuss thoughts and feelings, and Positive Directions will be the first in Fairfield County to host training in the model.

Addressing the new grant recipients, United Way Interim CEO Margo Amgott noted, “We are honored to be working with you.  Together, we can create communities where all of our neighbors have an equal opportunity to thrive.”

Grants were presented by United Way of Coastal Fairfield County Board members who chaired or served on the three subcommittees, Lyn Salsgiver-Kobsa (Health & Wellness), Susan Weinberger (Education), and Paul Reszutek (Financial Stability).

Receiving the 2022 Community Innovation grants are:

Health and Well-Being

“Well-being is fundamental to health and happiness.  Our United Way aims to ensure access to programs that advance health equity, improve individual and community-level outcomes, and enhance the quality of life.” (Lyn Salsgiver-Kobsa, UW Board Member, Chair of the Impact Philanthropy Health and Well-being Committee) 


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