Corbin Cares connects Darien community during COVID crisis

DARIEN — Corbin Cares and the Darien Foundation are going back to work for the community.

The first phase of Corbin Cares was launched in March, and in partnership with local eateries, provided meals to front line care workers, Darien seniors, local shelters and local food-insecure families.

The program was extended through the beginning of July after it was announced in May it had delivered over 4,000 meals to those in need.

Darien restaurants and caterers, much like those in the state and the nation, have continued to struggle with COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining. The town has allowed many eateries to open extended tent dining outdoors. But the cold weather has caused some concerns about how practical that might be going forward.

The Darien Foundation and Corbin Cares, an initiative of The Corbin District, have re-partnered for this second phase with the focus on feeding essential workers. The program kicked off in October with Halloween family photo sessions taken in front of a “haunted house,” which was destined for demolition in downtown Darien. The house was painted in colorful murals by artist Brian Kaspr.

Corbin Cares’ second phase will fund locally sourced family meals for essential workers, including EMS Post 53, the Darien Police Department, the Darien volunteer fire departments, town employees as well as Darien Public Schools teachers and staff.

Funds raised from this initiative will also position Corbin Cares to provide meals for other Darien residents and neighbors as the need arises during the coming, uncertain winter months.

“Together with The Darien Foundation, we expanded upon the concept to benefit all essential workers in our town. We are hopeful that the community will join us in expressing gratitude to these wonderful people, particularly during the holidays,” said David Genovese, CEO of Baywater Properties, the firm behind The Corbin District.

Genovese and partner Penny Glassmeyer came up with the original idea behind Corbin Cares in the spring.

Like the first phase, meals will be sourced from local businesses such as Ten Twenty Post, Four Forks, Bodega Taco Bar, Michael Joseph Catering and Parlor Pizza.

The idea for this second phase was sparked by a local Dads in Darien group, started by Greg Habay. This group of 50 fathers, who meet regularly and have similarly aged children, had an idea centered around providing meals for teachers.

“Even during COVID, we found ways to discuss important and meaningful ideas — one of which was to find a way to thank all the people working so hard to support our community during this challenging time, in particular, teachers and the rest of the public school staff,” Habay said.

Habay said the next step was to find someone who could make it a reality.

That’s where Genovese has helped.

“When Greg approached us about collaborating, we immediately jumped on board,” he said.

Genovese reached out to The Darien Foundation, which assembled a task force, which has been led by board member Robin Nelson, to move the idea forward.

Nelson is also a representative for the Council of Darien School Parents (CDSP) on behalf of Middlesex Middle School. She said her team felt the proposal could be an opportunity to support the community members who have been helping the community during the pandemic.

“We believe that it is so important to support the Darien public school teachers and staff, but also that this terrific idea could be expanded to all of Darien’s essential workers, including first responders, emergency services and other staff members in town,” Nelson said.

To help inspire public giving, The Darien Foundation will match all donations at 50 percent of the amount gifted, up to a total grant from The Darien Foundation equal to $25,000.

“We believe that now, especially, is the time to champion these important people who have been stepping up in extraordinary ways for our community for the past nine months and the foreseeable future,” Darien Foundation board Chairman Ward Glassmeyer said.

He said with Corbin Cares, the foundation wants to support the people who help Darien.

The initiative will not only benefit those on the receiving end of the meals. The project provides revenue to local restaurants and businesses that continue to be impacted by the pandemic.

“Ten Twenty Post is committed to continuing our relationship with this incredible community of Darien in all ways possible,” said David Nelson, owner.

Nelson said the restaurant team is grateful for all of the opportunities provided by The Darien Foundation and Corbin Cares to serve community members who are unable to come through the doors and “to share a bit of the warmth that we feel daily at Ten Twenty Post.”

“Whether we are feeding our community’s need for sustenance with food, or offering hospitality, we are so incredibly grateful to have weathered the past to get to a better future,” Nelson said.

Meal delivery and food donations will begin after Thanksgiving, with Genovese’s team behind the effort’s logistics and implementation.

Lisa Elwell, a Darien resident who joined Baywater in 2015, was the quarterback who managed the logistics of coordinating the preparation and delivery of nearly 12,000 meals over the first months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Donations to phase 2 of Corbin Cares may be made via a link on The Darien Foundation’s website with 100 percent of these contributions going to Corbin Cares.