Catholic Academy of Bridgeport receives $100K grant

DARIEN– Impact Fairfield County (Impact FFC), the area’s premiere women’s collective
giving organization, awarded two $100,000 grants to Fairfield County nonprofits: Catholic Academy of Bridgeport and The Center for Empowerment and Education in Danbury. Each winner will also receive an additional $2,000 in unrestricted funding. In addition, Impact FFC awarded three $20,000 unrestricted general operating grants to the finalists: Cardinal Shehan Center, Bridgeport; Mid-Fairfield Community Care Center, Norwalk; and Mill River Park Collaborative, Stamford. Unique to this year, all of the finalists’ applications requested support for their youth programming, across a wide array of program areas such as educational support and enrichment and health and wellness care.

The winners of the $100,000 grants were selected by a vote of Impact FFC’s 264-women membership at their annual meeting in Darien on May 3. The vote followed a rigorous application process which narrowed down an initial pool of 65 nonprofit applicants to five finalist organizations which presented at the annual meeting. After undertaking a comprehensive review of the applications and conducting thorough site visits, members selected the five finalists, and ultimately the two winners, based on criteria including the organization’s demonstrated impact, the population served, and the long-term
sustainability of the project.

The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport (CAB) provides an academically rigorous education to 900+ PreK-8th grade students, where 87 percent live at or below the poverty level, and 93 percent qualify for financial aid. CAB has seen great success from its students, with 100 percent graduating from high school and 99 percent going on to college or post-secondary education.

CAB’s St. Raphael campus, located in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Bridgeport (“The Hollow”), educates 243 PreK-3rd graders, many of whom spend up to 10 hours per day at the school for safety reasons.

With the Impact FFC grant, CAB will open “The Happy Hollow Outdoor Learning Center,” providing a safe, educational environment beyond the classroom to its youngest students. Students will benefit from sensory play areas, an outdoor classroom, age-appropriate playground equipment, and a sports court for teamwork, social problem-solving and gross motor skills. The Center will also run a summer camp to support year-round programming for this impoverished community.

“We have long been committed to creating a safe and engaging outdoor learning and play space for our students, but this incredibly generous gift from Impact Fairfield County turned our Happy Hollow project from ‘plan to’ to ‘going to’ build in a matter of moments. Our families and community members are ready to pitch in, providing their skill and expertise to build out the project, so this project will be a communal labor of love. The improvement to our program and educational space will not only elevate the experience of our current students, but of every child that attends St. Raphael into the future. Imagine the ripple effects of an excellent, well-rounded education upon thousands of children – it’s immeasurable. We are so very grateful!” said Angela Pohlen, Catholic Academy of Bridgeport Executive Director.

“This project is really exciting. To me it’s about the preservation of innocence, so by building this space we can ensure these children have a safe outdoor space to be free to be children. I am proud to be part of Impact FFC, where we can support projects such as these that are all about protecting the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Impact FFC Board Member Kerrith Mackay.

With Impact FFC’s membership representing 19 towns across Fairfield County, Impact FFC continues to push the boundaries of where and how Impact can make a difference, across the spectrum of age groups and supporting a variety of initiatives ranging from education and skill training, to healthcare, to basic needs. In its eighth year of investing to transform the lives of Fairfield County’s neediest, Impact FFC has reached $1.8 million in total grant funding.

“We are thrilled to support this year’s winners, who were selected from an incredible group of finalists. The strength and dedication of women in the room today, with the five female-led organizations and our female members, was truly inspirational, and we look forward to seeing the impact we are able to make with this year’s grants, ” said Impact FFC Co-President Katharine Lumby.