Small Grants Provide Big Impact for Those in Need
One year after a Bristol family received an Immediate Response Fund grant, the mother approached Stafford School Principal Cathy Cassin. The family had regained its financial stability and wanted to make a donation to the fund that had helped her family. She stated that she wished to “pay it forward” to help another family in need.
According to Jarre Betts, Director of Programs & Community Relations, between 2009 and 2011, there has been a 79 percent increase in distributions from four of the seven Main Street Community Foundation Immediate Response funds. The funds include the Werner Family Fund, Main Street Children’s Fund, Women & Girls’ Immediate Response Fund and the Bristol Board of Education Immediate Response Fund. In 2009, 24 grants were approved totaling $3,169. In 2011, MSCF approved 41 grants totaling $5,667. According to Linda Rich, Director of the Bristol Family Resource Center, “around 80 percent of the children who attend O’Connell School qualify for free or reduced lunch.” Mrs. Cassin explained the relevance of that statistic: “Many students eat breakfast and lunch at school. There is not enough food at home to stave off hunger and provide adequate nutrition. If you cannot attend to a child’s basic needs, their learning and relationships are impacted. You cannot teach a child unless you’ve met their basic needs.” Mrs. Cassin also stated that “children want to look good and feel good about themselves. They want to go to school with a full belly and a backpack to put things in. They worry about their peers noticing anything about them that would make them stand out as ‘different’ – for example, having shoes that are falling apart or not owning socks to wear with their sneakers.” Families often find themselves in the dilemma of deciding whether to pay the rent and utilities vs. feeding and clothing their family.
A grant from the recently established Karen DuCotey Fund for Kids supported a student suffering from serious illness by providing the family food and necessary household items. This immediate response fund supports students attending schools in the Region 10 School District which includes Burlington and Harwinton. Like many of the immediate response requests, needs may be related to food, clothing, shelter, health, safety, extracurricular educational experiences, and opportunities for inclusion (i.e. sports, camp) for students faced with a particular life situation or unexpected financial hardship.
Immediate Response Fund requests are initiated by a social service organization, other nonprofit or school working with an individual or family and are aware of the financial hardship. The recipient’s anonymity is preserved. Grants are made on a one-time basis in order to distribute funds in a way that will help as many recipients as possible. Grants are usually under $200. Most immediate response fund requests are fulfilled within 24 to 48 hours of the referral to address a critical need. “We had a student whose glasses were broken. The child literally could not see without the glasses. The prescription was expensive. The mother had already appealed to her insurance company but the policy did not cover replacement glasses. An immediate response fund grant enabled the family to purchase a new pair of glasses,” recalled Mrs. Cassin.
Responding to a critical need often requires a collaborative effort due to the limited amount of funding available and the increasing numbers of individuals and families in need of assistance. These grants may be small in dollars but provide big impact on the lives of the residents of our communities. The Main Street Community Foundation is honored that donors have provided these opportunities to help those in greatest need in our six communities. For more information about how to donate to an Immediate Response Fund contact us or visit our website at www.mainstreetfoundation.org.