Published December 18, 2020
By Erica Moser

As the year comes to a close, the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut has in recent weeks announced more grants, named new board members and trustees, and held a virtual version of its annual event.

In lieu of an annual meeting, the Community Foundation held a virtual "Premiere Party" on Dec. 3, a prerecorded video featuring remarks from people involved in the foundation, photos from summer programs that grant recipients held, a signature drink tutorial from The Green Room in New London, a reading from former Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson and a spotlight on the New London Talent Show, with a performance by local vocalists Frank Colmenares and Braiden Sunshine.

"What a year this has been," President and CEO Maryam Elahi said. "I know many of us would like to delete 2020 from memory and start fresh and virus-free in 2021, and that day will come, but before we do so, I would like to share with you the reason for celebrating 2020, and that is the power of our community."

She spoke of establishing the Neighbors for Neighbors Fund to channel philanthropic dollars to nonprofits in need. Ultimately, more than 280 donors contributed to the fund, which has raised more than $1.2 million and given $970,000 to 88 organizations across two rounds of funding, Elahi said.

The Community Foundation plans to make a third round of grants in the first quarter of 2021.

For the board in 2021, the Community Foundation is welcoming Mohegan Tribe Chief Lynn Malerba as chair; attorney Edwin Higgins III of the Bachand, Longo & Higgins law firm in Putnam as vice chair; Nicholas Fortson, president and CEO of CorePlus Credit Union in Norwich, as treasurer and Margaret O'Shea, a longtime educator and child advocate, as secretary. David Schulz has served as chair for the past two years. The new trustees are Norwich Human Services Director Lee-Ann Gomes, L+M Hospital President and CEO Patrick Green and Carol Williams, retired associate dean of Eastern CT State University.

This past Wednesday, the Community Foundation announced $225,500 in grants to 41 nonprofits through its four area Women & Girls Funds: Southeast, Windham, Norwich and Northeast.

For example, the Southeast Area Women & Girls Fund awarded $136,600 to 18 nonprofits, including United Community and Family Services for a program to address health disparities for women of color.

The $13,000 awarded to three nonprofits in the Norwich area includes a grant for a Madonna Place program that helps mothers of young children. The four funds collectively also gave $12,000 to the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund.

"Women, especially those of historically marginalized populations, have faced the greatest challenges" this year," program director Jennifer O'Brien said in a news release. "The Community Foundation is focused on shoring up economic security, ensuring education and (health care) access, and keeping women and children safe amid spikes in domestic violence."