GREENWICH — Community Centers Inc. leaders had never planned to run a food distribution center.
But the Greenwich-based human service agency found itself taking on a new role in March, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the midst of a new surge of clients who were clearly in need.
Since the spring, CCI leaders have been delivering groceries to more than 40 local families and 65 seniors in its programs.
Gaby Rattner, executive director of the nonprofit, said her agency has been helping to give families whatever they need just to get from one week to the next.
CCI was able to do so with the help of federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This year, the CARES Act granted additional Community Development Block Grant funds to communities like Greenwich to help agencies respond to the coronavirus crisis. CCI was granted $81,000.
“It was really extraordinary,” Rattner said. “Because CDBG money is federal money administered locally, these are people who know us, who know our organizations, know the people we serve and the work that we do.”
So far this year, the town has received two rounds of Cares Act CDBG-CV funding. During the first round, in April, the town received almost $487,000, which helped 12 local nonprofits. During the second round, which was announced on Oct. 23, the town received more than $386,000.
CCI Executive Director Gaby Rattner shows the new Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich headquarters in the Chickahominy section of Greenwich on Oct. 29. Photo: Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media
Where the latter amount will be spent still has to be determined. Town officials are encouraging local organizations to submit applications. Greenwich nonprofits are eligible to apply by Friday at close of business, said Tyler Fairbairn, community development grants administrator for the Town of Greenwich.
Decisions about grants funding are made by the town’s Community Development Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations after a public hearing to First Selectman Fred Camillo.
“What we’re looking for during the normal CDBG process is organizational capacity,” Fairbairn said.
“We want to see that the organizations who are applying have demonstrated the ability to do this type of work. And they have to show very specifically ... this (is) very clearly an expansion of what they’re already doing around COVID,” he said.
For example, if an organization is already running a food bank or food pantry, it must demonstrate and give proof that the need for its service has increased, he said.
“We ask in our application what is the number of beneficiaries from (the nonprofit’s) activity. So, the most bang for your buck is certainly a factor too,” Fairbairn said.
Local nonprofits chosen during this next grant process will not receive the money they’re granted upfront. Instead, organization leaders must make it through the grant process and then submit incurred expenses and then receive a reimbursement.
Each agency receives a different amount of money depending on its request and the committee’s decisions.
For example, the Transportation Association of Greenwich received $96,000, the highest amount of COVID funding, while $3,500 was granted to Meals on Wheels, at the organization’s request. Neighbor to Neighbor, the local food pantry, received $10,000, Fairbairn said.
“One thing about CDBG is it’s not a one-size fits all program. The community gets this money and then the community decides what to do with it,” Fairbairn said.
“I’m confident the money is going to where it’s needed most because of the process,” he said.
Margaret Goldberg, executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor, said the pantry needed support to expand its summer supplement program for students receiving free and reduced-price lunch, and for the Family Care Closet, to provide hygiene products to low- and moderate-income families.
Neighbor to Neighbor’s expenses increased by more than four times from March through May or June, she said, because expenses for food purchases had increased. Food inventory was “choked” at the height of the pandemic along the supply line, while donations to the organization dropped of significantly, she said.
“The dollars helped tremendously,” she said.
“Six or eight months into the current crisis, we see what a community strong can do and as an agency we are so grateful, and we wish to acknowledge that community strong and we’ll all get through this,” she said. “And the only way that we do it is if we work together collaboratively, and I think this is just one perfect example of that.”
Nonprofits interested in applying for a grant should visit: https://www.greenwichct.gov/285/News-Feed.