BRIDGEPORT—“We are all in this together,” Lorraine Gibbons, director of the Cardinal Shehan Center and McGivney Center, continues to reassure her staff. Although working from home is out of the ordinary for the centers, which offer enrichment programs for youth in Bridgeport, Gibbons says her and her staff are “absolutely pivoting” to make sure they are providing for families and the greater community in this time of need.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, both Shehan and McGivney Centers have stepped up to fill the needs of their members and the greater community.
Gibbons sent out emails to staff and board members, asking them to create resource tool kits to be sent daily to families of the centers. These toolkits provide a wide-range of helpful information, including cooking, literacy and math, just to name a few.
Members of the Shehan Center also have access to basketball tip videos, posted twice per week on Facebook Live, in order for players to keep up their skills and to encourage them to engage in fun, outdoor activities.
Gibbons explains that the Shehan Center, which hosts a sewing program, has partnered with a local tailor to make masks to be distributed to those in need. So far, the center has donated 50 masks to Homes for the Brave, a local non-profit serving Veterans, and 1,300 gloves to a local homecare agency serving senior citizens.
Feeding program is a ‘win-win’
In response to a survey, which was sent out to center families to gauge how they are doing in terms of remote learning, keeping busy with activities and access to food, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and a private donor were able to provide grant money for a dinner service program.
Through this grant, both the Cardinal Shehan Center and McGivney Center are able to offer dinner prepared by Vazzy’s, Calise’s Food Market and Layla’s Falafel by social-distancing curb-side pick up Tuesdays-Fridays through Wednesday, June 3.
Gibbons calls this “a win-win—keeping restaurant employees employed and also feeding our families.” This program is currently able to serve 50 families of four.
WIFI access through mobile hot-spots
Gibbons and her staff were able to make a deal with AT&T to secure three mobile hot-spots. Using two Shehan Center busses and one McGivney Center bus, the plan is to bring WIFI access to those who may not have it, but need it for work and school.
The busses will park in selective locations, where families will be able to drive up, park and use the internet access they need. Larger lots are being scouted out, which should allow for about 8 or 10 cars at a time.
Gibbons and her staff are hoping to being testing by this Friday (May 1), and hope to start providing the service the following week.
“This idea is one way I engage my staff during this time,” says Gibbons. “I remind them that it is a great way to serve our community—where we work, live and serve our kids. Why not further reach out to our families in any way we can.”
The City of Bridgeport’s Lighthouse Program through the Department of Youth Services has offered to cover the costs of the mobile hotspot program.
“This is a beautiful partnership with local community centers, schools, and a wonderful corporation—AT&T,” says Gibbons, expressing her gratitude to all who have stepped up to help during this time.