Quietly throughout town there are unseen needs – for a strong back, a meal, a bag of clothes – for help doing and affording. And just as quietly, Farmington Community Chest has been there, meeting the unseen needs through unseen works.
The Community Chest was established in 1931 by a group of volunteers collecting donations to help neighbors who were in need. The principle has been the same ever since.
“It’s a safety net for people and groups in town,” explained Jennifer Hogan, this year’s Community Chest president. “The budget goes directly to the Farmington Food Pantry, the fuel bank, community services — really basic needs.”
Sometimes the nonprofit is able to donate to other local organizations, if approached with a particular need. Last year, for instance, Farmington Community Services asked for help funding a new Dial-A-Ride van. Community Chest was able to raise almost $40,000 to ensure residents who can’t drive would still be able to reach doctor’s appointments and the grocery store.
Community Chest has also supported FOCUS (drug and alcohol prevention), the purchase of Farmington Fire Department’s rescue gator and expansions at the library and at the Stanley-Whitman House. And each year, Community Chest provides camp scholarships to help families pay for camp tuition.
In the past few years, much of Community Chest’s funding came through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving but with the weakened economy, local residents had a greater need.
So Community Chest turned to the community. Fill the Quill signs flanked the Unionville and Farmington centers, marking in red how much money was received until the goal was met.
They also started a letter-writing campaign.
“We just give it away,” Hogan said. “Every penny we get is gone.”
A crucial channel Community Chest works through is Nancy Parent, director of the town’s Community and Recreation Services. Residents turn to Parent when they have nowhere to go, don’t know what to do or just need a little help. She knows the stories and needs of countless families in town and takes care of all the necessary paperwork of eligibility requirements so Community Chest doesn’t have to.
“Nancy works with people day in and day out and helps us identify projects,” Hogan said.
The projects may be large, like the Dial-A-Ride van, but more often are small, like washing windows for residents at New Horizons or repairing the roof on an elderly couple’s home. Many of these tasks are completed on Farmington Cares Day, an annual Community Chest initiative that sends volunteers out to help neighbors with projects they can’t accomplish themselves. The day is held in June and for the past two years, has brought out dozens of students from the Farmington High School Student Council.
Hogan said Farmington Care Day is among her most fulfilling experiences because she gets to meet residents and make connections with real people.
“It’s different because you’re directly in their houses, helping,” explained Hogan’s daughter Brigit, now in her freshman year in college.
The pair and other volunteers went to New Horizons during last year’s Farmington Cares Day and washed windows and cleaned places most of the complex’s wheelchair-bound residents are unable to reach.
“We just washed windows and cleaned but it was huge. People really appreciate it,” Hogan said.
To find out more about Farmington Community Chest, to volunteer or donate, email email@example.com, or by mail PO Box 60, Farmington, 06034.