Stepping It Up

Okay, so we have to stay home. Our communities, clearly, are making the best of it.

“I am absolutely blown away by New Canaan’s response to this pandemic,” says Tucker Murphy, president of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce. “The town is closed but we are still functioning and doing so much for our residents. It’s truly been amazing to see.”

And that it has. The list seems almost endless. As Mike Handler, New Canaan’s emergency management director sent residents daily updates, our local nonprofits worked hard to step it up and help those who need it most. Staying Put, a New Canaan Based nonprofit, helped residents to team up with local senior citizens to help them by running errands like grocery shopping and providing them with daily check in calls. Voices of September 11 chimed in to provide much-needed mental health support and tips for talking to children about COVID-19. And, Grace Farms Foundation dove right in to make meals for a range of Fairfield County based organizations like Person 2 Person and Open Door Shelter, among others. And, they also launched a relief fund to provide local hospitals and first responders with more than $2.5 million in personal protective equipment.

“It is clear that pressing humanitarian issues can be solved when the public, private and not-for-profit sectors collaborate locally and globally,” stated Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation CEO and founder. “At this pivotal moment, we coalesced networks and leaders ranging from local businesswomen to kindred innovative foundations, global corporations and our local government to earnestly identify, source and land legitimate PPE supplies in real time.”

In Darien, the Corbin District, run by Baywater Properties, quickly launched its Corbin Cares initiative which works with local organizations like The Darien Foundation and The Community Fund of Darien to provide meals (crafted by Darien restaurants like Baldanza Bistro, Ten Twenty Post and Four Forks) to those in need and to hospital and healthcare workers. In its first week alone, the organization was able to provide 600 meals to those in need.

Murphy said that in New Canaan it has been important to keep the restaurants going and supporting their takeout and delivery efforts was always the plan.

“The supply chain has to be beyond what our grocery stores, like Walter Stewart’s, can handle,” she said. “So we love that people are helping our restaurants stay in business during this tough time.”

New Canaan Moms, a Facebook group turned charitable organization led by two local moms, Monica Capela and Allyson Mahoney, have been collecting donations in order to purchase gift cards from local businesses like Elm Street Books, New Canaan Chicken and Elm restaurant. Once purchased, the gift cards are donated to local families in need and first responders. This organization has not only provided food to those in need, but also kept our locally run businesses afloat during this tough time.

Coco & Lala’s shirts for charity.

And, it’s not just larger organizations working to give back—even when their own businesses are suffering. Coco & Lala in Darien owner Shannon Doherty and her young daughter Leontine “Lala” came up with an idea to “Spread Love, Not Germs” by designing T-shirts and donating proceeds to children in need through No Kid Hungry. In just over two weeks they sold over 500 shirts and provided 25,000 meals.

“Having to explain social distancing was a little hard at first,” Doherty said of explaining the current climate to her children. “The t-shirt idea really helped them feel connected to friends on social media and feel as if they were doing something to protect their family and keep everyone safe.”

Joe’s Pizza in New Canaan has been donating pizzas to hospitals. SoNo 1420, a distillery based in Norwalk, turned their alcohol into hand sanitizers, and gave them away for free to first responders and members of the community. Gray Barns launched dinner boxes and pantry boxes with tips directly from the Tavern’s head chef on how to cook something amazing from the ingredients of the week. Elm in New Canaan created Birch Box By Elm which are complete family dinner boxes made to order and delivered locally to residents of New Canaan and surrounding towns. Proceeds from Gray Barns and Elm boxes go directly to the restaurant’s employees, many of whom have had to lose out on work.

Next up, Murphy said she and her team are working on ideas to ramp up business once everyone opens again. Susan Cator, president and executive director of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, is also on it.

“If there was any a time we need people to use local business for any needs, this is it,” Cator says. “That is what we will be promoting after this.”

left: Gray Barns’ pantry boxes are filled with fresh ingredients, ready for cooking. right: SONO 1420’s homemade hand sanitizer.
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