The Frederick Gunn School is pleased to announce the 2023 Friend of the Green Award will be presented to the Connecticut Community Foundation at the Annual Town Holiday Party on Saturday, November 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Solley Dining Hall. All Washington residents and business owners, faculty, and Frederick Gunn School families are welcome to attend.
Each year, on the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, The Frederick Gunn School opens its campus to the community of Washington to celebrate the joy of the season and to present the Friend of the Green Award. Established in 2010, this award is presented annually by the school to honor an individual or group that has contributed to the well-being of the town of Washington through their volunteer efforts.
This year’s award will honor the contributions and accomplishments of the Connecticut Community Foundation, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary year. The award will be accepted by Jean Solomon of Washington, who is a member of the Connecticut Community Foundation’s Board of Trustees and serves on its Executive, Audit, Investment, and Pathways for Older Adults committees.
In the spirit of giving this holiday season, guests are asked to please bring a nonperishable food item or financial donation to support the Washington/Warren Food Bank. Registration is required by Monday, November 13.
Fostering an Equitable and Inclusive Community
The Connecticut Community Foundation has worked for decades alongside organizations, leaders, and donors alike to step up to local challenges and improve the quality of life throughout the region. Its mission is to foster an equitable and inclusive community in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills by inspiring generosity, supporting organizations, and cultivating effective leaders.
The organization was established in 1923 by seven Waterbury leaders who came together to create the first community foundation in Connecticut, and one of the first in the country. They recognized that the community’s unique mix of people, industries, and social and political systems had given rise to the challenges that required local attention, local leadership, local resources, and local solutions. They created the foundation to be permanent, responsive, and flexible enough to meet the community’s needs as they changed over time. Over the course of a century, the organization — renamed the Connecticut Community Foundation in the early 2000s — has expanded its scope to serve 21 towns in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.
“It was a total surprise and it is a huge honor to receive this award,” said Julie Loughran of Washington, President and CEO of the Connecticut Community Foundation. “I’m hoping it shines a light on the nonprofit sector in the town. There’s so much work that goes on all the time that people don’t always see.”
In the past decade alone, the foundation has awarded 68 grants to Washington-based nonprofit organizations, excluding grants awarded through the Give Local Greater Waterbury and Litchfield Hills campaign, Loughran said. Washington-based grantees have included ASAP!, Gunn Historical Museum, Gunn Memorial LIbrary, the Institute for American Indian Studies, Judea Garden, Pilobolus, Shepaug Valley School, Steep Rock Association, Washington Friends of Music, Washington Montessori School, and the Washington Senior Center.
Giving in Ways Large and Small
The foundation’s work is supported primarily by endowed funding with ongoing support from the contributions of individuals within the community, who give in ways large and small to ensure the changing needs of the community are met from one year to the next. That includes more than $1 million a year in scholarships, new programs that are supported by traditional grants, as well as funds that support what Loughran termed “capacity building” in nonprofits.
“Sometimes an organization will come to us and say, ‘We need a new computer system,’ or they might need to hire a consultant for strategic planning. It’s hard to raise the kind of dollars that are not directly tied to the programmatic work,” she said.
At other times, the foundation has been one of the first in the community to step up. In 1999, the foundation took part in conversations with community members who were concerned about a lack of arts enrichment in Region 12. Those conversations eventually led to the creation of the After School Arts Program. “We were among ASAP!’s first funders, pledging $90,000 over three years to help launch the program, which now reaches thousands of students throughout Connecticut each year,” Loughran said. “We are often a first funder for an organization. We help them seed the work, and once you get those first dollars in the door, it helps to get others.”
The foundation has supported ASAP!’s yearlong arts-infused programming at the Children’s Community School in Waterbury, and its Celebration of Young Writers program. Since 2014, the foundation has also supported an innovative movement and dance program created by Pilobolus to help older adults enhance their balance, strength, connection with others, and their sense of creative self-expression. These grants, made possible through the foundation’s East Hill Woods Fund, which supports programming and services for older adults in our region, helped to bring the Connecting with Balance program to numerous senior centers throughout the region, and since then, Pilobolus has produced a video version of the program that can be shared with communities all over the country.
“It’s awesome to see a room full of older adults engage their bodies in new and different ways that are designed to build balance and confidence, which in turn reduces the risk of falls,” Loughran said, adding, “That’s another initiative that was Washington-grown.”
Additional grants have supported programming for older adults in Washington such as memoir writing, intergenerational hikes, Tai Chi, yoga, Zumba, and more, all aimed at fostering connection and wellness, she said. The foundation’s Whittemore Travel Fund has supported educational travel opportunities for students from both Shepaug Valley School and Washington Montessori School, who visited Quebec, the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
A Strong Sense of Community Philanthropy
However, the foundation’s biggest impact in Washington has been achieved through its annual Give Local campaign, which continues to inspire and support philanthropy in the community. “The Washington nonprofits have really embraced it. Together, Washington nonprofits motivate hundreds of donors to give through Give Local, often to multiple organizations in town,” said Loughran, who noted the program is now in its 11th year. “We started Give Local as a way to help people support organizations they know are doing great work. We want to make sure that everyone sees themselves as a philanthropist, and it’s a way to shine a light on the organizations.”
Through the annual, 36-hour, online campaign, thousands of local residents donate to over 280 nonprofit organizations throughout our region. Among them are 27 different Washington-based organizations that have participated in Give Local over the years, including: ASAP!, Conversations on the Green, Fundación Perros Sin Nombre, Gunn Memorial Library & Museum, the Institute for American Indian Studies, Judea Garden, Lake Waramaug Association, SingOut!, Steep Rock Association, Village Improvement Society, Washington Ambulance Association, Washington Art Association, Washington Environmental Council, Washington Friends of Music, Washington Montessori School, the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens, the Washington Refugee Resettlement Project, and the Washington Scholarship Fund.
“In the past 10 years alone, Washington organizations have received $2.2 million through Give Local to support important local efforts — $300,000 in 2023 alone,” Loughran said, noting that the town’s nonprofits don’t compete for donors, but do support each other during the campaign. “This underscores the very strong sense of community philanthropy in Washington.”
During the campaign, each donor’s gift is amplified with bonus funds provided by the Connecticut Community Foundation as well as several business sponsors. Organizations can also compete for cash prizes. For example, Ericson Insurance has generously supported a $1,000 prize for a Washington-based organization for several years, Loughran said. All funds raised through Give Local go directly to the organizations as unrestricted dollars that they can use to support their work in the community.
“Promoting community philanthropy is at the core of our mission, as it is local giving that fuels our work and sustains support for local programs, scholarships, and more,” Loughran said, observing that the ethos of The Frederick Gunn School aligns with the foundation’s mission. “From the outset of the school, you’ve had such a sense of what it means to be a citizen. Your students understand that you are a part of the community and you need to think about what it means to be a part of your town, or your country, or the community you inhabit. That is in alignment with a community foundation. It takes everybody. It really is a part of people taking a generous view of how they can be part of a community and how they can create this and move it forward.”
Past recipients of the Friend of the Green Award have included: Washington Scholarship Fund, accepted by Steven Cornell ’77 P’09 ’11 ’14, President (2022); Judea Garden, accepted by Denise Arturi, Manager and Head Gardener (2021); the Town of Washington's COVID Response Team (2020); Fran and Michael Keilty (2019); Denise DeVault Trevenen (2018); Lake Waramaug Association, accepted by co-presidents Anne Block and Gail Berner (2017); the Washington Lions Club, accepted by John Quist, president (2016); Sheila Anson, Washington’s Town Clerk and Vice Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission (2015); the Institute of American Indian Studies (2014); JoAnne Torti of the After School Arts Program (2013); The Washington Fire Department and Washington Town Hall employees, accepted by First Selectman Mark Lyon and Fire Chief Mark Showalter (2012); Kirsten Peckerman, Steep Rock Association board member (2011), and Phil and Gretchen Farmer P’05, board members and past presidents of the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum (2010).