Giving Fund: The holidays are less stressful for residents in need when they get community support

Person to Person CEO Nancy Coughlin at a food giveaway at the East Norwalk Association Library in Norwalk on Nov. 22. The Giving Fund supports clients of Darien-based Person to Person. 

Person to Person CEO Nancy Coughlin at a food giveaway at the East Norwalk Association Library in Norwalk on Nov. 22. The Giving Fund supports clients of Darien-based Person to Person. 

Tyler Sizemore/Hearst Connecticut Media

For many, the holidays is a time of giving gifts. But for others, it is a financially difficult time — especially with the recent rising costs of food, gas, utilities and more. 

To make a difference for a family struggling to make ends meet, readers are invited to make a donation to the Giving Fund. 

Now in its 39th year, the Giving Fund tells the stories of local residents in need of assistance. The goal is to provide monetary gifts to individuals and families who are struggling to pay for the basic necessities, including rent, utilities, transportation costs and medical bills, or even winter clothes and food.

The stories of these residents in need will be published twice a week — every Thursday and Sunday — in The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time and weekly in the Darien Times throughout the holiday season.

The beneficiaries of the Giving Fund are clients at Greenwich-based Family Centers and Darien-based Person to Person, two nonprofit agencies that run programs to help people in need in lower Fairfield County. There are no overhead costs; all donations go directly to help the local residents.

The benefits of the Giving Fund "include stable shelter, restoration or continuation of services such as utilities, life-saving treatments or medications (and) less worry so individuals/families can focus on recovery and enjoy this special holiday season,” said Claudine Jean-Baptiste, a licensed clinical social worker and the Norwalk casework supervisor for Person to Person.

It can also mean "less stress on extended families who may be limited" in the ways they can give support, especially during the holidays, she said. 

The Giving Fund makes a great difference in the community, Jean-Baptiste said. 

“The stories are real, true and the difference the funds make are as real and true,” she said.

Last year, the Giving Fund raised a total of $97,128 to help residents in need.

How to donate

To make a donation, visit https://givingfund.isecuresites.com/product/GIVING-FUND/General-Giving-Fund?ID=2865.

Each case in the Giving Fund includes an estimated dollar amount to help an individual or family tackle everyday challenges such as rent payments, child care costs and transportation during this holiday season.

The names have been changed to protect the person’s privacy. The Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time and The Darien Times sponsor The Giving Fund in partnership with Family Centers and Person-to-Person.

Here are their stories:

Case 340: Carlos and his family moved from a shelter to affordable housing; his wife is two months pregnant. He just found a new job, but fell behind on his bills when he was previously out of work. During the time between paychecks, his electricity was disconnected. They threw out their food after it went bad in the refrigerator, and there is no hot water for showers. The kids need lights to do homework. A donation of $1,000 would help this family get the lights turned back on and cover other bills.

Case 341: Mr. Smith is a single father of one; his wife was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away recently. Just as he was trying to get his life together, he became ill with Lyme disease and was hospitalized for a month. He was unable to work and as a result, he cannot pay his current rent. A gift of $1,000 would help cover his rent and put him at ease while he recovers.

Case 342: Steven is a carpet installer but is unable to work because he has tested positive for liver cancer. Ongoing health issues require treatment at the hospital, and Steven will undergo surgery in December. During that time, he will be unable to pay his rent of $800. A donation of this amount would help cover his costs and help him as he recovers.

Case 343: After a month-long hospitalization for a mental health crisis, Martha could not work and lost wages. A donation of $1,000 would cover her rent arrears while she continues her outpatient treatment to alleviate the stress she was facing before her mental health breakdown. The funds would help bring her toward a full recovery in a stable environment.

Case 344: Sally has been through five surgeries to help with problems with her shoulder and knee in order to live a somewhat normal life. But just when she was starting to recover from her operations, her estranged husband left and filed for divorce. That left her responsible for paying the full rental amount on her fixed Social Security income. A gift of $1,000 would help cover her rental arrears while she gets back on her feet.

Case 345: Peter is an older man who worked as a mechanic all his life, along with other jobs in the factory, maintenance and packing and shipping sectors. He has had numerous surgeries because of spine and neck injuries. He needs help with transportation to his chiropractic appointments. With a gift of $1,000, Peter would be able to pay his back rent and cover next month’s transportation and medication costs. This would give him a clean financial slate in the new year.

Case 346: Raphael reached out to Person to Person for help because his family ran out of heating oil for their home and he has no means to fill the tank. He is doing all he can to boost his income to keep up with increased costs of utilities, mortgage payments and his young teens’ needs. In the past several years, Raphael suffered a job loss which led to divorce as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Inflation has made it impossible to stay ahead financially, he said. A donation of $1,000 would help him stay warm while he applies for energy assistance.

Case 347: Manuela is a single mother of a 12-month-old baby and works two part-time jobs to provide food, shelter and basic essentials. Unfortunately, Manuela’s salary does not make ends meet and she is having a hard time paying her bills. A gift of $500 would help Manuela pay her rent and utility bills.

Case 348: Josh and Elvira are parents of two children, with a third due in February. They are extremely happy, but are worried about price increases in rent, food, bills and more. Both parents work full time, but they are struggling financially as they prepare for the arrival of their son. A gift of $350 would help Josh and Elvira purchase a crib for the new baby.

Case 349: The past three months have been difficult for Amy, who is the mother of three young children. Her youngest son was born with only one working kidney. Because of her baby’s health and developmental concerns, she stays at home to care for him. Her husband, Clark, works full time, but is struggling to pay rent and bills on time. A gift of $500 would help Amy and Clark cover expenses such as paying rent and bills.