Banks, Nonprofits, the City of Danbury, and Residents Rallied to Help Those in Need of Food
DANBURY, Conn. (February 17, 2021) — The final numbers are in, and it’s good news for the pantries supporting an increased number of individuals and families struggling with food insecurity. In response to this dire need, Union Savings Bank knew it was time to do something and introduced The Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge to the United Way of Western Connecticut. Together they launched the campaign in October of 2020, which raised more than $117,000 to benefit 14 food pantries in the greater Danbury area. The pantries, which are all members of the Danbury Food Collaborative, had been overwhelmed by increased demand in the wake of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This was a time for us to come together to do all that we could to help our neighbors” said Cynthia Merkle, President & CEO of Union Savings Bank. “Reaching out to my fellow community bank peers seemed the most natural response, and they couldn’t have been more receptive to the idea.”
Led by Union Savings Bank, Newtown Savings Bank, and the Savings Bank of Danbury, Feeding Our Neighbors brought all sectors of the community together. It became a fun cause with a serious purpose―and gained statewide attention―when former Mayor Mark Boughton donned a chicken suit to race his Public Relations Coordinator Taylor O’Brien, dressed in a unicorn costume, down Danbury’s West Street to raise dollars and publicity.
The Challenge got a further boost when The 3 B’s Foundation offered a generous dollar-for-dollar match, up to $15,000, in December 2020. Local donors met the challenge and brought the total dollars raised beyond the original goal of $100,000.
“Feeding Our Neighbors is a great example of how we can address a crucial need when all corners of the community come together,” said Isabel Almeida, President of United Way of Western Connecticut. “With the banks in the lead, local leaders, foundations, and area residents came together to help get food to struggling families during a challenging time. It’s good to know that when our neighbors need help, our local businesses, organizations, and residents step up.”
The need for food has been great among those who lost jobs or wages as part of the economic fallout of the pandemic. Most struggling households use what government benefits they receive to keep a roof over their heads and pay for utilities and car expenses, leaving them little money for food. Families also found themselves with bare shelves as their children were home for three meals a day, every day, for months on end. Calls for information about food to Connecticut’s 211 line more than quadrupled during some months in 2020. Members of the Danbury Food Collaborative report serving three times as many households as they were before the pandemic.
"Our share of the Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge will pay for the majority of food we typically purchase for a whole month―food that significantly betters the lives of thousands of individuals,” said Peter Kent, Director of the Daily Bread Food Pantry. “While donations of food are critical to what we do, cash is what allows us to supplement those donations with exactly the right food at exactly the right time. The economic fallout from the pandemic is not diminishing―just today we completed a food distribution to a record number of clients. The overwhelming response to the Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge gives us the confidence we will continue to be able to meet that demand and ensure we will never have to turn anyone away."
Kathy Purdy, Hillside Food Outreach’s executive director, echoed his appreciation: “The Feeding our Neighbors Campaign has been a great help to Hillside Food Outreach. It enabled us to purchase healthy food and personal hygiene items to deliver to those who are in quarantine due to the Coronavirus. Thank you to all who participated and donated!"
Local food pantries that benefited from donations to the “Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge” are: Association of Religious Communities (ARC) • Bethel Food Pantry • Brookfield Social Services • Camella's Cupboard • Catholic Charities - Morning Glory Breakfast Program • Community Action Agency of Western CT • Daily Bread Food Pantry • Hillside Food Outreach • Interfaith AIDS Ministry • Jericho Partnership • The Salvation Army • Victory Christian Center • Purple Heart Ministries • Walnut Hill Community Food Pantry
For more information about the Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge contact Isabel Almeida, President of United Way of Western Connecticut by email or at 203-297-6725.