Pitch Your Peers (PYP) to award Community Centers with $30K grant
Pitch Your Peers, Inc. of Greenwich (PYP) announced Steviann Martines as its first ever Grant Champion and Community Centers Inc. (CCI), of Greenwich as its first ever Grant Recipient. Martines will award CCI with a check for $30,000 from PYP at the inaugural grant reception to take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 7:30 p.m., at the Innis Arden Golf Club in Old Greenwich. “I put a lot of hard work into the pitch, and it paid off. To have my $1k turn into $30k and for CCI to be the recipient is extremely rewarding” explained Martines.
PYP is the newest grant-funding 501c3 organization in Greenwich with a membership of 37 Greenwich women. Collectively the organization will fund grants to non-profits that serve the local community. Currently the PYP membership is invitation only and focused on developing a select group of women comprised of an essential mix of working and stay at home mothers. The main thread that bonds members is local philanthropy and a few degrees of separation from founding members; Brooke Bohnsack, Dara Johnson, Nina Lindia and Rachael LeMasters.
Unlike other grant-funding organizations, PYP has no Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Rather, it is the members who come forward as “Grant Champions” and represent the charity they are passionate about by pitching to the membership. Grant Champios will research a charity and create a sales pitch to be delivered at the annual Pitch Meeting, which took place this year on October 6th at the Greenwich Library. The membership then votes, and the winning Grant Champion is awarded a grant to the non-profit she successfully pitched.
“The PYP process highlights the membership’s existing skill set of sales, marketing and public-speaking, all while educating the membership about deserving charities right here in Greenwich” said Bohnsack.
This year’s PYP Grant Champions were: Karena Bailey and Julie Karish for B*Cured, Monica Huang for Byram Park Pool Project, Steviann Martines for Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich and Karina Solomon and Lisa Getson for Kids in Crisis.
After the first Pitch Meeting members have an opportunity to follow up with each Grant Champion and her chosen charity to ask questions, and visit the sites and working projects of the agencies where possible. “What is special about this process is that our membership became educated about all four projects in a unique, hands-on way. In turn, each charity was given the opportunity to recruit new volunteers and potential funds to their respective causes”, Bohnsack added. She continued, “The PYP membership voted through an anonymous online survey and we were faced with a tie between Kids in Crisis and CCI”.
On November 3 PYP held a second round of voting with CCI emerging at the winner by just one vote. “Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich is extremely grateful to be this year’s recipient of the PYP grant. This grant will enhance our ability to raise funds for our programs, create more awareness of our organization, and ultimately increase our impact with respect to counseling, education, recreation and advocacy activities for Greenwich residents in need” said Community Centers, Inc. Executive Director, Lauren Franciamore, LCSW.
Students from the Advanced Broadcast Journalism class at Sacred Heart Greenwich have been filming the PYP process, interviewing founders and Grant Champions, and created a short video package about PYP. “We were thrilled to have these aspiring film-makers, under the direction of their visionary teacher, Ellyn Stewart, participate in our Pitch Meeting and we are all looking forward to having them at our first grant award ceremony” said Lindia.
For more information, and to see a list of members and their bios, visit pitchyourpeers.org.
About Pitch Your Peers
Pitch Your Peers (PYP) is a 501(c)(3) public charity with a mission to engage women in philanthropy and to collectively fund grants to charitable initiatives that serve the Town of Greenwich, Connecticut. The organizations’s goal is to identify unmet needs and impact the local community through awarding a deserving not-for-profit with a significant grant on an annual basis. The members of PYP are committed to volunteerism and promoting awareness of local programs that work to better their community. Through education members are able to make worthy philanthropic choices and meet like-minded women who share their passion and interests. pitchyourpeers.org.
November 8, 2015
Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich 60th Anniversary
Fairfield County Look Magazine
by Elaine Ubina
Greenwich, CT October 29, 2015
Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich has been serving the Greenwich community for 60 years. They have a range of programs for people of all ages and provide services geared to helping all members be part of the Greenwich community. The programs include: homework clubs, summer programs, advocacy and support, counseling and therapy, weekly activities for seniors and adults with special needs, citizenship and ESL programs. To find out more about CCI, please visit:http://ccigreenwich.org/
Please click here to view Community Centers, Inc. An evening of Magic and celebration pictures: http://fairfieldcountylook.com/parties/community-centers-inc-of-greenwich-60th-anniversary/#gallery/70033/20823
November 6, 2015
CCI of Greenwich Pulls Out The Magic And More For Its
By Anne W. Semmes
There was an evening of entertainment, magic, and celebration last Thursday at the Belle Haven Club for the 60th birthday of the Community Centers Inc. (CCI) of Greenwich. Guests arrived to jugglers, balloon wizards, psychics ready to tell fortunes, and artists to sketch portraits while that young magician about town, Ben Zabin threaded his way through the crowd startling attendees with his playing cards that mysteriously danced on your palm.
Carol Memeshian, board president of CCI, totaled 110 supporters as attending. She was having her portrait being done by sketch artist Cesar S. while First Selectman Peter Tesei was happily mingling with the guests. Tesei would have two roles in the evening, to hand out the sixth annual Barbara Nolan Community Award, and play good sport as enlisted participant in magic tricks performed by Greenwich’s famed magician/entertainer Bill Herz.
Standing by a magnificent groaning board of buffet offerings were two CCI board supporters and friends Joy Patafio and Cheryl Simon, Esq. “CCI is a hidden gem that tugs at your heart,” said Patafio, “When you visit CCI you can’t help to want to be a part of it.” Both Patafio and Simon have helped with CCI’s children’s programs. “Cheryl and I did a fashion show charity event together. They can’t get rid of us!”
CCI Board Member Cheryl Simon had her sketch done by artist Cesar S. Photo by Elaine Ubiña
“CCI is a safety net for the underserved in the community,” said Simon. “With the support of the CCI staff those clients who come, quickly identify CCI as their home. It’s a can do charity that is purposefully under the radar for who it serves – but it needs more visibility. People in this community don’t recognize the need.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei explained more about the role of CCI in our town when he stepped on stage to present the Barbara Nolan Community Award posthumously to his former colleague, Selectman David Theis.
“CCI has a rich tradition for taking care of those families arriving in a town noted for its wealth,” said Tesei, “For helping those who are living in public housing to get them acclimated to their community. It’s an organization that mentors people.”
Tesei recalled “one of the most powerful times” he has witnessed at CCI that is located at 61 East Putnam, “It was seeing the graduation of citizens, listening to the stories of those who had earned their citizenship through the support of CCI’s Citizen Program.”
Tesei shared his heartfelt remarks on Theis’s lifelong devotion to CCI. “Dave Theis was very patriotic. He came from a family of three generations of support for CCI. His support started in high school – he was there for the Foster Family Picnic.”
Theis’s sister Ginny Theis, a longtime Greenwich schoolteacher, was called up to receive the Award. “Dave was a part of CCI,” she said. “Community service was Dave’s middle name.”
Also called up was Theis’s longtime companion Kerrin Coyle. “I shared 33 years with Dave,” she said, “Dave was always connecting people to others.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei with Kerrin Coyle holding the Barbara Nolan Community Service Award given posthumusly to her longtime companion Selectman David Theis. Photo by Elaine Ubiña
Not present for the award ceremony and celebration was CCI’s founding executive director Barbara Nolan who was recuperating in Nathaniel Witherell. Nolan, who retired six years ago had over her 52 years as executive director developed CCI’s programs for children, families, developmentally disabled adults, seniors and citizenship seekers.
She sees no slackening in the needs that CCI addresses. “Many of the CCI clients today don’t know how to assimilate into the community,” she said. “These are the people who CCI really serves. CCI helps these clients take advantage of all that the town offers. CCI helps them become part of their community.”
Nolan was sorry to have missed such a “magical” birthday celebration being enjoyed by so many CCI supporters like Miriam and Donald Landsman. “It was a beautiful magical evening for a cause that can magically change lives,” was Donald Landsman’s tribute.
Magician Bill Herz engages CCI supporter Steven Brody in his magic tricks. Photo by Elaine Ubiña
Magician/entertainer Bill Herz was of like mind. After parading his partners in magic crime on stage including First Selectman Peter Tesei, and after dissolving many of the attendees into paroxysms of laughter with the tricks of his trade he added his tribute, “I’m always glad to perform for CCI as they are the true magicians – they bring magic to so many people’s lives!”
From left, CCI Executive Director Lauren Franciamore and CCI board president Carol Memishian. Photo by Elaine Ubina.
October 8, 2015
Community Centers, Inc. Celebrates 60th Anniversary
On Thursday, Oct. 29, Community Centers, Inc. (CCI) will hold their annual fall fund-raiser “An Evening of Magic and Celebration” at the Belle Haven Club. This year, CCI celebrates its 60th anniversary serving the Greenwich community. Guests will be transfixed by enchanting entertainment, including: magicians, jugglers and more. There will be a cocktail buffet and cosmic bar, along with some Holiday Silent auction items.
Community Centers, Inc. is a Greenwich‐based social service agency dedicated to building skills that empower clients to overcome educational, social, and economic barriers. CCI offers a variety of educational, and therapeutic recreational programs, as well as individual, family, group counseling and advocacy. CCI serves persons of all ages, many racial and ethnic groups and residents with a variety of special needs. Most participants are residents of Greenwich Housing Authority developments.
For more information, call 203‐869‐1276 or visit Ccigreenwich.org
Community Centers, Inc.-CCI of Greenwich, a Primer
By: GREENWICHFREEPRESS | October 4, 2015
Photo Credit: Christopher Semmes for CCI
Do you know what CCI does?
- For students, they offer after school homework clubs with supervised support at the elementary school level
- For children and families, they offer year-round educational and therapeutic activities as well as summer day programs, swimming lessons, field trips and social gatherings.
- For both adults and young adults with developmental disabilities, we offer support with community and social opportunities.
- For everyone as needed, counseling with licensed and masters-level social workers.
- For those seeking citizenship: Tutorial support and language skills. They have helped over 180 individuals obtain their US citizenship, with guidance of how to utilize their community resources.
- For seniors, therapeutic recreational activities, shopping excursions, community participation and social activities.
The mission of CCI, a Greenwich-based social service agency, is to build skills that empower clients to overcome educational, social and economic barriers.
Now you know just what CCI does!
CCI, with all it has provided for over 60 years, is made possible by extraordinary volunteer support. You can be part of their next 60 years. CCI offers a variety of ways to give back to your community. To learn how, call them at (203) 869-1276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Their website is www.ccigreenwich.org CCI is located at 61 East Putnam Ave in Greenwich.
Greenwich Community invited to Community Center’s
From homework clubs for kids to citizenship classes for Spanish-speaking adults, Community Centers Inc. has been serving the Greenwich community since 1955.
“We’re working with a population that’s typically underserved,” said Lauren Franciamore, executive director of the nonprofit.
The 60th anniversary makes this year’s fall fundraiser extra special, she said.
The fundraiser, called “An Evening of Magic Celebration,” begins at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 29 at the Belle Haven Club, 100 Harbor Drive. Tickets start at $250. The event features a “cosmic bar,” a live auction and a magic show.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’d be great to have members of the community who are not aware of our services or of the huge financial divide within the town to see why our work is so important,” said Franciamore.
Community Centers will be auctioning off items including a kids cake baking class at Aux Delices, a limo ride to see “Matilda” in New York City and receiving a decorating consultation from interior designer Maeve Carr. Performances by magician Bill Herz and teen magician Ben Zabin will also be given.
The nonprofit will also give the Barbara Nolan Community Service Award to former first selectman David Theis posthumously, presenting it to his family at the event.
“He worked hands-on with our youth programs and was a big supporter of our work. He came to pretty much every event we had,” said Franciamore.
Community Centers Inc serves over 1,100 clients a year and boasts 180 clients who became citizens through their classes. Funds raised will go toward all of their programs.
“People that are familiar with us should come and have fun and learn more about the organization. People who aren’t should come to learn about and support a nonprofit that’s giving back to the Greenwich community,” said Franciamore.
Community Centers Holds Annual Golf Challenge
Community Centers, Inc. (CCI) held its 26th Annual Golf Challenge on July 9 at The Stanwich Club. Over 96 golfers participated.
Serving Greenwich for 60 years, CCI offers educational, recreational and counseling programs.
Sponsors included FactSet Research Systems (Underwriter), AETNA, Bank of America, Colonial Toyota of Milford (who provided the “hole in one” car), CIGNA Health Care, Colliers International, Ernst & Young, LLP, De Clercq Office Group, Kevan Hall Sport, Marcus Partners, Moet Hennesy USA, O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, LLC, Reckson a Division of SL Green, Ted Moudis Associates, The Per And Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation, Turner Interiors, Vineyard Vines, along with Joseph A. Cabrera, Michael Johnson, Philip A. Hadley, Robert Swindell and Peter G. Walsh families.
April 4, 2015 Greenwich time
Community Centers, Inc. KH Fashion Show fundraiser
Scene … A crowd of about 200 attended the Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich spring luncheon and fashion show at l’Escale at The Delamar on Steamboat Road on Wednesday. Acclaimed American fashion designer Kevan Hall, the award-winning designer and former creative director of Halston, headlined the fashion show debuting his new golf and lifestyle line, Kevan Hall SPORT. Hall is best know for his red carpet designs and has long enjoyed a celebrity following with stars including Vanessa Williams, Katherine Heigl, Debra Messing, Felicity Huffman and first lady Michelle Obama. His numerous award-show gowns, as well as styles for the first lady, were on display at the event. Models were styled by the teams from Becker Salon Greenwich and Saks Fifth Avenue. Exquisite jewelry by Style and Grace was on display and for sale during the luncheon. Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich is a nonprofit social service agency that helps clients overcome educational, social and economic barriers by offering educational and therapeutic recreational programs and individual and family counseling and advocacy.
Community Centers, Inc. Open House to introduce new director
By Anne W. Semmes on April 17, 2014 at 7:38 AM
On Thursday week, The Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich are eager to introduce their new executive director, Lauren Franciamore in an Open House, from 6 – 8 p.m., at their headquarters at 61 East Putnam Avenue. There’s no question that Franciamore who has served as a social worker at CCI for seven years has a way with kids. She was told back in high school, “You need to work with kids.” She’s always been interested in helping people, she says, “It’s something innate in me.”
Franciamore embraces CCI’s mandate in her own words: “CCI serves those who have been traditionally underserved – for example children who need access to after school programs and seniors who need extra support to remain independent. We are a place where people belong – as we say “a homey place with a feel of family.”
So head over to homey CCI where refreshments will be served to meet and greet Franciamore. RSVP s needed by today if at all possible! By calling 203-869-1276 or email@example.com. And you can visit their website: www.ccigreenwich.org
CCI benefit luncheon features Mario Buatta
By Anne W. Semmes on April 8, 2014 at 4:52 PM
The Community Centers, Inc. (CCI) of Greenwich are hosting a very special fund-raising luncheon on Thursday, April 10, at 11:30 at the Belle Haven Club, 100 Harbour Drive, with the guest of honor, a world famous American decorator, Mario Buatta.
Buatta will speak to his new book that encapsulates a stunning career of creating interiors from the White House guest house – Blair House to the homes of Henry Ford II, Barbara Walters, and Malcolm Forbes. He’s a notorious wit and a noted jokester so will give a memorable talk, plus sign his book, “Mario Buatta – Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration.”
Lauren Franciamore CCI executive director, reports there are still tickets available from $60 that includes Buatta’s book.
Mario Buatta’s new book, “Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration” comes with the price of a ticket.
The luncheon will benefit the CCI’s Homework Club programs in four elementary schools in Greenwich: Julian Curtiss School, New Lebanon School, the International School at Dundee, and the Hamilton Avenue School, where trained staff and volunteers provide homework assistance and academic encouragement.
April 4, 2015 Greenwich time
New head of CCI hopes you’ll get with the program
Anne W. Semmes
Published 9:29 pm, Sunday, February 23, 2014
Lauren Franciamore has always been interested in helping people. “It’s something innate in me,” she says. Now she is going to get to help on a grand scale. Franciamore, a social worker on the staff of Greenwich’s Community Centers, Inc. (CCI) for the last six years, recently was promoted to executive director of CCI, where she will oversee the numerous programs the nonprofit offers to people with needs in Greenwich.
To learn more about Franciamore and CCI, Greenwich Time took a TimeOut with her.
Q: What are your duties as executive director?
A: One of my most important duties as executive director is to make sure people know about CCI and all the programs we offer. Internally, I am responsible to ensure that we have the best staff and programs in place. Externally, to be sure the community knows we exist and we’re here to serve them and meet a critical need.
Q: What is the CCI’s mandate in this town?
A: CCI’s mission is to promote the personal and social potential of the members of the Greenwich community who are economically marginalized, have special needs, or are isolated from the mainstream. CCI serves those who have been traditionally underserved — for example children who need access to after school programs and seniors who need extra support to remain independent. We are a place where people belong — as we say “a homey place with a feel of family.”
Q: What inspired you to your line of work? What were your earliest influences?
A: When I was in elementary school, I was a peer counselor to children who needed extra support with homework. In high school, I worked at a summer camp for children with developmental disabilities. My supervisor said, “This is your field, you need to work with kids.” At college I decided to take courses in social work and it became my major. I’m really happy with the decision I made. I think the profession speaks to my personal strengths.
Q: What do you enjoy about this work?
A: I love working with the youth in this program and their families, despite the occasional challenges. It’s a growing experience — it keeps you on your toes. It keeps you excited. CCI is about connecting with individuals and families, and this connection is very important to me. We are serving on average 1,100 individuals over a year, from elementary age children to seniors.
Q: In your opinion, how well known in the town is the work of CCI?
A: We’re sort of like a hidden gem. One of my goals is to make sure people know about us as I think there are a lot of people who need our support and the support of our community.
Q: From where do you receive your greatest support?
A: The United Way is one of our greatest friends. We couldn’t do this work without them and we really appreciate our relationship with them. The majority of our support comes from fundraising and grants. We’re incredibly grateful for the support of our donors. Also our board of directors is very active in support of the agency.
Q: For people who don’t live in Greenwich who perceive that everyone here is rich, how does that view contrast with the people you work with — and what are the challenges these people have?
A: A lot of people don’t realize the financial diversity within this community. This diversity enriches the town, but also presents challenges. Greenwich is a competitive and expensive place to live with an exceptional educational system and good resources.
Q: What is the relationship with CCI and other nonprofits in town — such as the Town’s Department of Social Services, Neighbor to Neighbor, Abilis, and church outreach programs? Is there a supportive network?
A: There is definitely a supportive network. We have a strong partnership with the schools. We receive support from theTown Social Services Department, the local churches support us, the Greenwich Housing Authority and we’ve received a grant from Abilis. Moving forward I would like to strengthen our partnerships in the community.
Q: What is your vision for CCI?
A: We’ve just finished our strategic plan so if you’d asked me this question in six months I’d have a more comprehensive answer. I will always be looking to improve our program and meet critical needs within the Greenwich community.
Q: What’s coming up on CCI’s calendar?
A: We’ll be mailing out our invitations soon for our Spring fundraising event, a luncheon at the Belle Haven Club featuring interior designer Mario Buatta speaking to his new book, ” Fifty Years of American Interior Decoration.” For those who would like to attend, the cost is $125.
January 29, 2014
Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich proudly announces
their new Executive Director.
Lauren Franciamore, Executive Director
The Board of Directors of Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich is pleased and excited to announce the appointment of Ms. Lauren Franciamore as its Executive Director. Ms. Franciamore, a licensed clinical social worker in Connecticut, received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sacred Heart University and her Master of Social Work degree from New York University. She has been a staff member of Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich since August 2007 and is an enthusiastic, respected, and well-liked supporter of its clients and programs.
Ms. Franciamore previously worked as a Residential Psychologist Specialist at the YAI/National Institute for People with Disabilities Network. In addition she was a social work intern at the Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial Center in Yonkers, New York; Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk, CT; and Prospect House in Bridgeport, CT.
Community Centers, Inc., of Greenwich is looking forward to many years of growth and success for all its clients with Ms. Franciamore’s leadership.
- United Way grant aids the underserved — http://www.greenwich-post.com/16487/united-way-grant-aids-the-underserved/
On Becoming an American Citizen
Anne W. Semmes
Published 5:34 pm, Wednesday, June 26, 2013
It was 21 years ago when Liliana Herrera arrived in Greenwich from her native Cali, Columbia — with her year-and-a-half daughter in tow. She could neither speak English nor get a job, though she had been an accountant in Columbia.
“When I got here,” she says, “it was like another world. I was trying to communicate. I was taking ESL classes at Greenwich Continuing Education at the same time I was working as a house cleaner, then for a gas station.”
She learned she had to “validate” her education in this country. “So I was working to get my GED,” she says. “I had to take math and do equations in a different way. It was hard.”
Liliana was learning, “Everything you want to do, you’ve got to study for it.”
Along the way, she found Community Centers, Inc. (CCI) — and community.
“At CCI there was a program, `Mommy and Me,'” she says, “for me and my daughter.”
Instead of feeling isolated, Herrara experienced CCI trips and group activities. “The CCI community became a part of my life,” she says.
After a while, the moment came, she says, when, “You’re growing and learning and you say, `I want to be a citizen.'”
At CCI she found the way. “There were classes in American culture, in how to become an American citizen,” she says.
After nine or 10 months of cramming, Liliana was ready to face the requisite two written tests in Bridgeport, and two interviews in Hartford. CCI was there, she recalls, to drive her there and to bring her back.
“It was like taking an SAT,” she says, “There were 100 questions, just like there are now.” One question she remembers in particular: “What amendment gave women the right to vote? ”
She also recalls how nervous she was. “The English test takes an hour — the American history test takes one and a half hours.”
In one interview she recalls being asked why she wanted to be a citizen. “I said I wanted to vote. I wanted to be a part of this country where I’ve been given an opportunity to grow and learn. I don’t want to be someone with a green card. I saw how my daughter was in school and how well adjusted she was and having friends — and how these opportunities would come to her,” Liliana said.
Liliana passed the test, was congratulated and welcomed to the U.S. One month later, her entire family — her mother and two siblings had preceded her to America — was there to see her say the Pledge of Allegiance. “There were more than 200 people there,” she says. “We all recited the Pledge of Allegiance together. You give them your green card, and you sign a naturalization certificate.’
She recalls the judge welcoming everyone with, “You’re not Columbian, you’re not Italian, (etc.) you’re American.”
Since that eventful day 21 years ago, Liliana’s family has grown. She has three children and three grandchildren. She’s also an accredited preschool teacher.
For the last 11 years Liliana has been giving back at CCI — teaching that class in citizenship that she took long ago — in Spanish. “I teach every Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.,” she says. Her students range in age from 20 to 89. “They come from Columbia, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador,” she says.
Some attend for a whole year, she says. She recalls the young man who came to class who was pushing his mom to get her citizenship. “He didn’t allow her to watch any soap operas,” she says, “He was on top of her every day to study. She passed the test — Boom, boom, boom! She came back to class. I tell them to come back after their interviews to share it. She was so happy.”
“How do you explain the feeling of helping someone else?” Liliana reflects, “To see all these people with their goals become successful — to be a part of that feels good. The friendship that you have with all these new citizens is unbelievable. People call me and say I remember this. They recommend others to come here. Oh my God, it’s a positive good feeling. To be a part of their achieving is great. If you want a community to grow, you have to work together.”
She reflected on her own experiences. “You forget what you did, but not the struggle you went through,” she says. “It was a struggle — but I love this country.”
This Sunday, at CCI’s offices on East Putnam Ave., the Fourth of July is going to be celebrated a bit early. CCI , “We are celebrating the more than 150 people in our CCI community who’ve realized their goal of obtaining American citizenship. We’re celebrating the sense of community that these new citizens feel here and how CCI continues to serve them as a support community.”
Community Centers, Inc. Celebrates the American Dream
By Alma Rutgers on July 6, 2013 at 9:28 PM
Fourth of July came early last Sunday at Community Centers, Inc., otherwise known as CCI. More than fifty new Americans and aspiring Americans gathered in the white clapboard house at 61 East Putnam Avenue that’s home to CCI, a nonprofit agency with over a half century of service to the Greenwich community.
The old-fashioned porch was draped in red, white and blue. There were Stars and Stripes in abundance. An American flag covered the window of the room where a buffet barbecue lunch was served. CCI staff distributed flag lapel pins. Participants, seeking relief from the heat and humidity, cooled themselves with paper fans designed as flags.
The mood was festive, the camaraderie infectious. An enthusiastic, caring and supportive energy infused the gathering.The Fourth of July was a fitting time to celebrate the immigrant graduates of CCI’s citizenship and English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Since 2002, one hundred and fifty graduates of the CCI classes have become American citizens.
Participants praised teachers Liliana Herrera and Jesse Cohen. Herrera, an immigrant from Colombia who became a citizen 21 years ago, teaches the citizenship class and Cohen teaches the ESL class.
CCI offers a variety of educational, recreational and counseling programs, available to residents of all ages regardless of their economic circumstances. Many of its support services are designed for those with special needs, or at risk of being marginalized and isolated from the mainstream.
“A way to belong,” is the ideal expressed in the CCI logo, which features a house and conveys the message that this is a homey place with the feeling of family.
I spoke with a few of those gathered for this Fourth of July immigrant celebration of the American Dream.
Marina from Colombia, Nelida from Argentina, James from Mexico, Fredy from Guatemala, Walter from Ecuador, and Maria from Peru were all happy to belong, not just to the CCI community, but also to the American community.
They all said the same thing: I love this country; I love it; I love it a lot; so many opportunities; a beautiful country; it’s the best; so proud to be an American.
And those who have become citizens all said that CCI had prepared them well for the citizenship test.
“She’s the best teacher,” said Marina as she described Herrera.
“This institution is the best to help everybody,” said Walter Fernandez in a prepared speech that he delivered to the gathering. “The teachers are very friendly, enthusiastic, positive and more…when the students give their opinions during discussions, the teachers respect them… the teacher teaches us little by little… (helping with) the pronunciation of a word, meaning of a w0rd… structure of a sentence.”
First Selectman Peter Tesei addressed the gathering and congratulated the new Americans as participants in the American Dream. “It’s the same opportunity that my ancestors had when they came from Italy,” he said.
Tesei described Greenwich as often misunderstood. Greenwich is far more diverse, he said, than it is often portrayed. “This is its strength.”
Tesei praised CCI as an important resource in helping immigrants become Americans. He encouraged the new and aspiring Americans to maintain a pride and connection with their native country and language, while assimilating to the American way. “I didn’t do that,” he said, with regret that he does not speak Italian.
Tesei also encouraged the new Americans to become involved in the local community. We’re looking for people to serve in the local government, he said.
Alex Capozza, an administrative assistant on the CCI staff, called upon immigrant Americans to make themselves heard on issues that impact them. “Don’t be working this hard for other people to make decisions for you,” she said. “Use your voice. You earned it.”
Herrera told the gathering how much CCI helped her and others over two decades ago, even driving students to Hartford to take their citizenship tests, as they did for her when, expecting a baby, she took her citizenship test twenty-one years ago. She had become involved with CCI through the Mommy and Me program.
“I am very proud to have reached the American Dream,” Harrera said. “And to help you also reach the American Dream.”
“Thank you,” said Christopher Von Keyserling, a Representative Town Meeting member from District 8 as he addressed the new and aspiring Americans.”You give us life.”
Indeed. We are a nation of immigrants. This is cause for celebration on the Fourth of July. It’s this rich immigrant tradition that’s been our country’s lifeblood
- Greenwich Magazine (February 2011) – “Nature and Nurture: Michael Chambers Gives Back to the Town That Helped Raise Him [Download PDF] Chambers’s contributions to our community go way beyond his job and position on the Audubon board. Chambers is also on the board of Community Centers Inc. (CCI). “CCI works with the indigent community here, which folks don’t want to believe exists. CCI deals with the mentally challenged and the immigrant population. It offers ESL classes, after-school programs and family counseling. It’s an organization that doesn’t stop at the doorstep; it comes into your home. They know the families intimately. I was a CCI kid. I learned how to swim at CCI. My first baseball team was at CCI. I’m a product of CCI and really believe in its mission,” says Chambers.
- Our Town Blog by Alma Rutgers (November 2, 2010) – CCI members help with daffodil planting Helping the children with the planting were 3 staff members from Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich: social workers Lauren Falconi and Pam Bell and program coordinator Ramon Lara. This community service agency, otherwise known as CCI, offers a variety of programs to persons of all ages, most of whom are residents of Housing Authority developments. CCI was instrumental in coordinating the team effort between residents and garden club members.
- Greewich Time.com (October 30, 2010) Community Centers Inc. of Greenwich’s “Festive Giving 2010 Puttin’ on the Ritz” takes place on Thursday at the Belle Haven Club in Greenwich. The evening’s festivities include cocktails and a buffet from 6 to 9 p.m., a live auction, and entertainment by the George Gee Swing Orchestra. Greenwich resident Joe Cabrera will be honored with the Barbara Nolan Community Service Award for his dedication to the organization. The award’s namesake is the former executive director who recently retired after 50 years at the helm of CCI, a nonprofit social service agency in Greenwich that serves members of the community with special needs and families in crisis.
- CTPost.com (October 29, 2010) – Touching many lives, responding to changing needs – Alma Rutgers “A way to belong” is the ideal expressed in its logo, which features a house. This is homey place with the feel of family… This is an exceptional organization that touches many lives and manages to do a great deal with relatively few resources. Much of its strength derives from the dedication of its board members, volunteers and staff who work together as family.
- GreenwichStreets.com (October 29, 2010) – CCI Annual Ball at Belle Haven
- Greenwich Time.com (October 5, 2010) – CCI supports senior fair Ron Berlingo, director of senior services, at Community Centers, Inc., of Greenwich, said the event is important for both seniors and agencies.”It give us a chance to network with other agencies as well as for seniors to network and to see what there is for them,” he said.
- Greenwich Citizen (September 2, 2010) Anne Semmes – A sense of community: service organization CCI helps more than 1,000 Greenwich residents each year It’s been called “the most under-appreciated service organization within our borders”: Community Centers, Inc. of Greenwich.Some know it by those vintage blue buses tootling about town with the CCI logo, “A Way to Belong,” or by its half-century headquarters located in the white clapboard house with the friendly porch on East Putnam Avenue opposite the YMCA. But how many know of what a very few are doing daily to enhance the lives of more than 1,000 Greenwich residents every year?
- Greenwich Time.com (June 29, 2010) – CCI lands $15,000 grant for its Summer Youth Program Community Centers, Inc., a Greenwich social services organization, has received a $15,000 grant from the Fairfield County Community Foundation for its Summer Youth Program. The summer program provides recreation, tutoring and a reading program five days a week. Community Centers, Inc., which has served Greenwich for more than 50 years, offers educational and therapeutic recreational programs, individual and family counseling and advocacy.
- Our Town Blog by Alma Rutgers (January 27, 2010) – CCI Serving our town for more than 50 years Although Community Centers, Inc. has been serving the Greenwich community for more than fifty years, many people in town are still unaware of the good work it does. Located at 61 East Putnam Avenue in Greenwich, across from the YMCA, the non-profit agency, also known as CCI, offers educational and recreational programs for those who are economically marginalized, have special needs or are otherwise isolated from the mainstream. It also provides counseling services and engages in advocacy on behalf of the population it serves.