At the end of each calendar year, as the holiday season approaches, people often look to contribute both time and money to local nonprofits. These efforts are not only appreciated, but essential in helping to ensure that the individuals, children, and families these organizations serve truly enjoy the holidays and don’t go without. Often, these volunteering efforts continue into the New Year, as people resolve to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors and communities.
When February rolls around and the “winter doldrums” set in, resolutions can falter. In addition to there being more parking spaces at gyms, nonprofits struggle with declining volunteerism when the need for help remains, and often rises. This is where you come in!
Connecticut’s nine Community Action Agencies (CAAs), serving low- and moderate-income residents in all 169 cities and towns, have opportunities year-round for anyone looking to give back in a meaningful way.
Get involved in a one-day event like planting a community garden, restoring a building for a daycare center, or helping out at an agency event. Or, use your professional expertise to help people file tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), become a financial coach or mentor, or guide people as they prepare for a job interview. Spend time assisting teachers with providing positive learning experiences for preschool children in an Early Childhood Education Program. Or, support older adults by lending a hand at Senior Cafes, delivering meals and checking in on those who are homebound, or join the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) if you’re 55 and older and have a desire to help your community. This is just a snapshot of the volunteer opportunities available at Community Action Agencies.
Last year, Connecticut’s CAAs removed obstacles and created opportunities for 259,512 people — children, teens, adults, single parents, and older adults — providing them with the tools and resources they needed to thrive. CAAs help people reach their full potential, allowing everyone to contribute fully to their communities.
This would not have been possible without the 296,293 volunteer hours donated to Connecticut’s Community Action Agencies, 71% of which were from the low-income population. As part of a national anti-poverty effort and a network of over 1,000 CAAs, CAAs have a positive impact every day in communities across the country.
You can learn more about CAAs’ work here at home in Connecticut in our 2019 Annual Report. In our report, you will read about people like Raul, a former resident of a homeless shelter run by a Community Action Agency, who now returns each day to volunteer in the kitchen there; Sean, who became a homeowner through the assistance of his local Community Action Agency; and, Noel, who was able to gain and maintain employment because his local Community Action Agency received a bicycle donation that he now uses for transportation.
As we move into the rest of 2020, think about those who are facing a tough time throughout the year. They may be your neighbors, your friends, or even your family. And, if you find yourself trying to keep that resolution to improve your community and make a difference in people’s lives, call your local Community Action Agency — because everyone has something to offer. Find and contact your local CAA at www.cafca.org/agencies/ to learn more, and become part of the bigger picture of Community Action’s impact in Connecticut.
Deb Polun is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA), the state association for Connecticut’s nine Community Action Agencies, the state and federally designated antipoverty agencies. Deb Monahan is the CAFCA Board Chair and Executive Director of Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA), the Community Action Agency serving southeastern Connecticut.