United Way of Meriden and Wallingford raises funds to help local community amid pandemic

New Haven

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Since March, coronavirus assistance has been coordinated on a state and regional basis. But back in the spring in Meriden and Wallingford, as needs continued to grow, the community came up with a plan to help its own.

Tuesday, News 8 was at a childcare center run by the Meriden YMCA. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they became part of the state’s program to help frontline workers find childcare, and they were able to gain additional help in the form of support from a brand new source.

While schools and daycare centers were forced to close due to the pandemic, Meriden YMCA has been running five sites, each with three-dozen kids.

Heather Volpe, director at Meriden YMCA Little Rascals told News 8, “Working with the families. It just showed us why we are here and why we are so important.”

They opened as part of the state’s “Project 26” to serve children of frontline workers at 26 major hospitals. Then, a $15,000 grant helped offset some of their new pandemic-related costs.

Steve Markoja, branch director at Meriden YMCA added, “The PPE cost, the cost for extra staffing, just increased internet service.”

The YMCA is just one grantee of the Meriden Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, a brainchild of area nonprofit heads who aggressively raised funds for their own community as the virus was spreading across Connecticut.

Executive Director of the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford Maria Campos-Harlow explained, “We reached out to 20 local foundations and corporations and funders to have a discussion to see how we could coordinate our response to better help our community instead of all of us doing little pockets of support here and there. We all got together, we created this fund.”

Meriden Rotary was first to step up with a $25,000 donation, challenging others to do the same. Some people even donated their $1,200 stimulus checks. To date, the fund is just shy of its $200,000 goal, helping the people pay for food, rent, utilities, PPE, software, and programs like this for kids.

“We received about 30 grant applications and we funded about 26. The pandemic has been hard on everyone.”

But unlike their parents, most of these children don’t even realize it’s going on.

Markoja added, “Very appreciative for what those frontline workers are doing, have done for us, and continue to do. We just wanted to be able to support them in any way possible that we could have.”

And 100 percent of proceeds from this fund go right back into the community. The fund also has its own committee that reviews grant applications. They say one of the benefits of this fund is that it can turn around quickly. Many of the state-wide and regional programs take a lot longer to get cash in the hands of people in need.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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