FAIRFIELD COUNTY Help for summer learning

June 13, 2018 GMT

DANBURY — Children playing at the Regional YMCA in Brookfield this summer will benefit from a $15,000 grant for the center’s educational and childcare programs.

The funding is just part of $498,000 from the United Way of Western Connecticut that will be distributed to almost 20 area nonprofit programs that serve local children and families, the United Way announced this week.

The grants will support after-school programs, affordable childcare and out-of-school activities for children of families who earn above the official federal poverty level but still struggle to make ends meet.

“Care for kids has been a struggle,” Regional YMCA CEO Marie Miszewski said. “Funding has been reduced across the board everywhere ... It’s just sad when you see the funding getting cut for those programs. We already know that when you’re low income it’s already harder to keep up in school.

“In the summer time, the learning loss becomes even greater every year,” she continued. “That’s what we’re trying to help, to curb that summer learning loss and giving kids a safe learning environment to be in.”

The funding for the YMCA will supplement donations to the YMCA and give more children access to financial aid, Miszewski said. Last year, the YMCA received requests for $400,000 in aid but could only afford $150,000 to help, she added.

ALICE families — a United Way acronym for “asset limited, income constrained, employed” — are the focus of the foundation and a slew of partner nonprofits this year, including the Regional YMCA, the Salvation Army and local social services departments.

“We are hearing firsthand the difference that these programs make in the lives of ALICE families in Western Connecticut,” said Kim Morgan, CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut. “Helping ALICE households keep fresh food in the house, support children’s success in school and access free financial services to help families stay on budget and save — these are ways we can alleviate stress and improve the lives of people who work at meaningful jobs, but just don’t make enough to pay all of the bills.”

More than $157,000 of grants will support 10 early childhood agencies that work to make childcare more affordable and more more than $125,000 will support another 13 after-school programs throughout Danbury and the surrounding towns, according to the foundation.

Another $75,000 will be invested in United Way’s ALICE Enrichment Fund, which provides families up to $300 per child to supplement the cost of out-of-school activities for their children.

Last year, the fund helped more than 350 children play sports, take swim lessons or learn a musical instrument, for example.

Those grants will be distributed between Danbury Youth Services, the Boys & Girls Club of Ridgefield and the social services departments in Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield, Newtown and Redding, according to the foundation.

“It helps me keep everything going so the families have consistent services, then I can focus on using our campaign funds to fill in more gaps,” Miszewski said of the grants. “At the end of the day, it’s important that the kids get the consistent services. The pot of money is never big enough.”

Another $78,000 will help the Connecticut Food Bank fund pantries in Stamford, Danbury and New Milford. Financial literacy programs at The Bridge to Independence and Career Opportunities in Danbury, Catholic Charities and the Stamford Domestic Violence Crisis Center will split $62,000 in grnats.

The almost $500,000 sum is the latest addition to a growing pool of money dedicated to low income families and childcare in the greater Danbury area.

In April, the United Way announced a $1 million gift to reduce poverty and increase affordable childcare. That followed announcements in February that Danbury received a $450,000 Working Cities Challenge grant and a $100,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ 2018 Mayor’s Challenge to address the same issues.