Mary Ellen Markowitz Innovation needed to save nonprofits
The recent Greenwich Time article “Legislative leaders tackle questions of how to help” (Dec. 7) discussed that many of our local nonprofits who help the vulnerable among us are being impacted by our state’s fiscal woes. The article gives Kids in Crises as an example of one organization grappling with the effects of the short fall in state funding, but which has nonetheless found a way to thrive. The truth is much harsher than that.
Kids in Crisis is the only agency providing emergency shelter and critical services for children of all ages from New Haven south to Greenwich. Currently it no longer receives state funding. As a result, it was forced to reduce its number of beds from 20 to 12. Small children are especially vulnerable. It is important to realize that without Kids in Crisis, situations may escalate leaving children’s lives in danger. Also, teenagers might find themselves living on the streets or relegated to less than adequate foster homes where they would likely remain in crisis. Kids in Crisis offers therapeutic support, educational advocacy and counseling to the family which can lead to hope and healing.
Another important nonprofit whose mission is to provide early childhood education to an underserved population is CLC (Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County). It is the largest all day preschool in lower Fairfield County funded by state and federal funds. It is now operating at a deficit due to reduced government support even as it takes care of nearly 1,000 children of our working poor and employed immigrants who otherwise would not be able to work. The little ones receive an excellent all day preschool education, 51 weeks a year, and are kindergarten ready by the time they turn 5 years old. The loss of vital state funds puts CLC at risk of having to reduce its programs and support, just as Kids in Crisis has had to do.
At the recent legislative forum hosted by the United Way, our newly elected state senator, Alex Bergstein (D-Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan) proposed a creative solution — to set up a rainy day fund in Greenwich that would address the needs of the nonprofits. We need this type of innovative thinking in government. I would like to see our town government explore how this idea could be put into practice, or alternatively see our town government step up and help fill the funding gap created by the state, a gap that these organizations struggle with to support our neediest residents. If we as a society do not care, the consequences can be too great and the price too high. Lives depend on these vital services.
Mary Ellen Markowitz is a Cos Cob resident.