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Danbury Purdy to receive Heart of Women Award

October 1, 2018

Kathy Purdy has been giving to the community for 21 years and now she is getting something back in the form of recognition for herself and her organizations.

Purdy, the founder and executive director of Hillside Food Outreach, will be given the 2018 Heart of Women Award by the Women’s Business Council at a reception to be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, at Ethan Allen Hotel in Danbury. The Women’s Business Council is a program of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s really a group award. There are so many people involved with the Outreach now,” Purdy said Monday from the group’s Danbury office at Matrix Corporate Center. “It’s nice that they are recognizing the work we do and, hopefully, bringing awareness to the problem. It’s difficult to get people on board to feed the hungry because they don’t recognize that there is a problem.”

Hillside delivers food to those in need who cannot visit a pantry, such as the elderly and handicapped. It has offices and warehouses in Danbury and Pleasantville, N.Y., and serves more than 2,000 clients throughout Fairfield and Litchfield counties, as well as Westchester and Putnam counties in New York. Like many nonprofit organizations, Hillside relies heavily upon donations and volunteers.

The agency has more than 300 volunteers who package and deliver the food. ShopRite and Stop & Shop are major food donors, which Purdy said is important because many clients have special dietary needs.

“There’s a lot more to the delivery than just food. Sometimes, that is the only visit people get each month,” she said. “For whatever reason — and there are a lot of them — these people can’t make it out and can’t afford food. Just because you live in this area doesn’t mean you have a high salary.”

Purdy founded the organization in 1997 after noticing her grandmother was struggling financially despite having the means to live comfortably. Purdy’s grandmother was helping to feed several neighbors in the senior citizens building in which she lived, Purdy had discovered. The neighbors, Purdy said, were on a fixed income and had little left after paying rent and utilities. Many had to decide to spend the remaining money on medicine or food.

“It didn’t seem right to have my grandmother continue bearing this burden, so I coordinated an arrangement that would get food assistance to all of the 20 elderly neighbors she had been feeding,” Purdy said. “As time went on and word spread, additional need in the community became apparent, and the agency was born.”

After more than two decades of feeding the hungry, Purdy said the organization is her mission in life.

“I believe, truly, as a Christian, that this is God’s calling for me,” she said. “What better thing than to help other people? And to make a life out of it … yeah. This is a gift and I’m grateful for it.”

The Heart of Women award recognizes women who have “championed a cause and made an impact,” said Joann Cueva, director of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce. It was created in 2011. Pat Zachman of Women’s Center was last year’s recipient.

Tickets may be purchased at www.heartofwomen2018.eventbrite.com

“Kathy is the embodiment of what the Heart of Women Award represents,” Cueva said. “She saw a need and, without a moment’s hesitation, took the initiative to help seniors with limited income literally put food in their mouths.”

Hillside Food Outreach will hold its 17th annual gala benefit on Saturday, Nov. 10, at Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y. Former Yankee and current jazz musician Bernie Williams will host the event.

To reach Hillside Food Outreach, visit www.hillsidefoodoutreachorg or call call 203- 702-4881.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338.

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