Branford

Nonprofit Pivots to help Struggling Connecticut Families

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Graver family of Branford has a lot of pictures volunteering for agencies that help people in need.

Amy Graver has run a successful marketing firm for 22 years and said she's always donated, given, and helped as an important part of her life.

She admitted she and her kids are not the kind of people you would expect to need help from some of the very agencies they have supported over the years.

But the single mother of two said, "when Governor Lamont shut the state down, in March, that same day we were quarantined, my phone started to ring, and projects that I had were being canceled."

Graver said in one afternoon, she lost 80 percent of her business.

And then a friend told her about the Women & Family Life Center in Guilford, which was also facing making some big changes.

Executive Director Meghan Scanlon said, "we, obviously had to pivot during the pandemic, and recognized that a lot of the women coming into the center for all kinds of resources were struggling financially."

Part of that pivot, was using the Project Innovation grant they won from NBC Connecticut and Telemundo Connecticut, to help start a Covid- 19 response fund.

The girls empowerment program, for which they were awarded the $10,000 grant had to be suspended for social distancing.

Social Worker Emilie Steinnagel says the cash they're giving families, is just the beginning.

"We're not just giving $500 and people are walking away. We're giving $500 and we're hearing what's going on in their life, and then helping them connect to other kinds of resources that they didn't know that they were able to access," said Steinnagel.

Many people, like April Godfrey, never expected they would need help and need those resources.

Godfrey, a Guilford mother of two, is a hair stylist and nutrition coach. Covid restrictions on both of her industries have meant working longer, seeing fewer clients, while her childcare needs are at an all-time high.

"Depending on the week, they may be in school, or not in school," said Godfrey.

Godfrey said it wasn't easy, but she's glad she asked for a little bit of help.

"I thought, 'you know, I really think I need to reach out because everything is feeling pretty overwhelming," she said.

Both Godfrey and Graver said the Women & Family Life Center is a lifeline for anyone, who may be just a pandemic away from having their situation change.

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