2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. Commemorating this landmark event at the recent gala held at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Conn. are (left to right) Jerry Vigorito and Rob Fried, Band Together CT; Juanita James, Fairfield County's Community Foundation CEO and president; Andy Kadison, Producer, Band Together CT and Fairfield County's Community Foundation Board Chair Lizanne Galbreath. Band Together, a Foundation fund-holder generously entertained the evening's guests. (Photo credit: Marilyn Roos) (contributed photo)
Norwalk, CT - For a quarter of a century, Fairfield County has reaped the rewards from a group of visionary business and community leaders who had the foresight to merge their respective foundations to enhance the region at large. They knew the region’s inequities, disparities and needs were significant and realized that together they could make a greater impact to better the lives of the county’s residents.
2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation. Founded in 1992, the Community Foundation has strengthened nonprofits, guided strategic philanthropic efforts for donors and supported research for data-driven strategies to make the lives of the people living and working in Fairfield County better. It was formed when the Danbury, Greenwich, Stamford and Five Town foundations merged with the Fairfield County Foundation, part of The New York Community Trust. In 2008, the Greater Bridgeport Area Foundation also merged with the organization, which was ultimately named Fairfield County’s Community Foundation.
Fairfield County's Community Foundation Board member John Bailey raised his paddle during the evening’s fundraising event which secured $180,000 for the Community Foundation's Impact initiatives. (Photo credit: Marilyn Roos) (contributed photo)
Today, the Community Foundation’s main areas of impact include its Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Fund for Women & Girls, Fairfield County’s Giving Day, Scholarships and Thrive By 25. In 2017, discretionary grants totaled $3.4 million, donor-advised grants totaled $12.8 million, and nearly $1 million was awarded to scholarship recipients.
By combining community resources, the Foundation is better able to serve the region’s changing needs. “Upon reflection at this juncture in our history, we have truly gone on to build an organization with the capacity to collaborate and convene, to identify trends and issues, and to provide sustainable, scalable solutions based on best practices and sound research. As we look to the next 25 years and build on past successes, we know the challenges we face are systemic and generational. No one organization or person can solve them alone,” stated Juanita James, president and CEO at the Community Foundation at its 25th Anniversary Gala held this week at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Conn., to honor the accomplishments of its founders, donors, partners, board members and staff.
Fairfield County's Community Foundation Board member Gerry Fox with his wife Kathy celebrate the 25th anniversary with Connecticut's 4th District in the United States House of Representatives and former Community Foundation Board member Jim Himes and his wife Mary. (Photo credit: Marilyn Roos) (contributed photo)
Ms. James also discussed the organization’s future plans in response to its long-term goal to close the opportunity gap while maintaining the Community Foundation’s values and integrity. “The Community Foundation’s role as the region’s unifier and convener will continue to grow, engaging donors, partners and supporters’ expertise to accomplish much more,” she added.
In 1992, the organization had $8,413,356 in net assets and held 85 charitable funds. In 2017, 25 years later, there is $204,918,394 in net assets and 571 charitable funds. Over the past 25 years, more than $8 million has been distributed for educational scholarships and over $220 million has been awarded to nonprofits in Fairfield County and beyond through the Community Foundation. Cumulatively, over the past four years, more than $4.5 million was raised for 600+ area nonprofits in an exciting 24-hour annual event known throughout the region as Giving Day.
The accomplishments of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation are vast and impressive, and continue to grow and flourish through the determination of its staff, board members, donors, partners, thought leaders and volunteers. Some of the original founders are among the important change makers to this very day.
The Community Foundation has made an exponential impact across Fairfield County’s 23 cities and towns in the past 25 years by expanding access to education, supporting nonprofit causes, funding local initiatives and beyond. The inequities, disparities and needs recognized 25 years ago – some different, some the same – are still being addressed with vigor today. Combining compassion with hard data, research-based projects and publications including the Community Wellbeing Index 2016, Hunger Lives Here and Healthy Minds, Heathy Communities have been underwritten by the organization. The results are compelling and create greater awareness of the regions’ inequities so that sustainable solutions can be sought for effective and creative change.
According to its first annual report in 1992, the organization was established as “…a vigorous, unified entity fashioning a regional philanthropic approach to the many issues which go beyond the borders of any single town.” True to this original mission, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation remains committed to supporting its vision of making Fairfield County a vital, inclusive community where every person has the opportunity to thrive.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation has transformed lives for many, working to fulfill its mission: Together We Thrive.