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Local Safety Net Needs Reinforcement

Shelter, food pantry, hot meals, affordable housing: Operation Hope meets the community’s need.

It is easy to forget that behind closed doors families are struggling to make ends meet, particularly when we get wrapped up in our own hectic schedules. But that doesn’t mean that we are not a giving society. We just give more when we can see the need readily before us.

This isn’t conjecture – it is real. The Chronicle of Philanthropy conducted a study earlier this year about Americans’ charitable contributions. Based on 2008 IRS records, wealthier households gave more generously when they lived in communities where they could see the need. Those who were isolated from the less fortunate contributed less.

Recent events bring this observation home. Super Storm Sandy hit coastal Connecticut hard. We didn’t have to look far to see others who were struggling. Most residents experienced the challenge of lengthy power outages and spoiled food. Many in low-lying areas suffered with flooded homes and the loss of household possessions. In case images in the media were not enough, water logged items curbside reminded passersby of the need.

Fairfield responded and donated $60,000 (as of the end of November) to help their neighbors in need. Mark Barnhart is Fairfield’s Director of Economic Development and Resources. He explained that the town asked Operation Hope to accept the donations on its behalf; since Operation Hope is an established 501c3 organization all donations are tax deductible. Storm Sandy Relief Funds are collected into a special Operation Hope account – but the town manages the money. Operation Hope’s Development Administrator, Gwen Burroughs, said that the organization was privileged to help the community and the Sandy appeal was a natural fit.

Operation Hope is the safety net for our area. In Fairfield alone there are 1100 households that receive food stamps. During typical, non-crisis situations, Operation Hope offers hot meals to 45 people a day, emergency shelter to men, women and families, affordable housing and a food pantry that supplies 123,000 meals per year. In addition, their comprehensive social work and case management services help clients overcome their hardship and sustain the recovery.

While the response to the “Storm Sandy Relief Fund” was terrific, there has been a glitch. Since all donations went through Operation Hope, many people did not differentiate between Sandy Relief and the organization’s general services. Consequently regular donations to its food pantry, shelter and other ongoing support are down.

I didn’t realize how Operation Hope’s help with the Sandy Relief effort might lead to this misperception until Gwen Burroughs explained the situation to me. She understands the confusion. Technically all donations went to Operation Hope, but the Sandy Relief Fund money just passed through before making its way to the town. Ms. Burroughs said, “We know that people become aware of the need to help more during the crisis and this is wonderful; we hope that this awareness continues to influence their giving and allows them to be open to the continual needs of many we serve every day.”

Our community relies on the vital services provided by Operation Hope, 365 days a year.

  • Shelter is provided for 150 households each year, including 12 children.
  • The community kitchen serves 30,000 hot meals a year.
  • The food pantry feeds over 200 families each month, including 100 children.
  • Long-term affordable rent for 46 formerly homeless households.
  • Emergency assistance funding that averts crises.


December is the most giving time of year. Network for Good, a Washington DC based organization that supports non-profits with fundraising, says it’s not just gifts under the tree – one third of on-line donations are made during this month. In 2010, 22% of annual donations were made during the final two days of the year! Contributions made through December 31st can be claimed as a write-off on this year’s tax return. 

Donations to Operation Hope can be made here. Note on the right side of the screen the donor may identify how they would like funds to be used. All donations are tax deductible. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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