When Alanna Kennedy, a transgender woman, first walked through the doors of the Triangle Community Center in Norwalk, the folks there said “come on in,” she said.

Kennedy shared her life story to about 50 people at Wednesday evening’s 100 Who Care Darien’s quarterly meeting, held at the Darien Community Association.

“They were just all welcoming. It was amazing,” added Kennedy, referring to the TCC.

The Triangle Community Association was the second grant recipient of 100 Who Care Darien. The grant is in the amount of about $10,000.

The two other charities vying for the grant were the Carver Foundation of Norwalk and Laurel House in Stamford.

Kennedy said she was 16 years old when she was thrown out of her house and “told not to come back.”

She then went into hiding for the next 40 years.

“It was very hard,” she said. “I became the best man I could be because that’s what everyone wanted me to be. But internally, I was female and it just didn’t make sense.”

Last year, Kennedy decided to transition to become a woman to the outside world.

Kennedy said the TCC has changed her life. She has participated in the many programs TCC offers including Coffee Talk, Women’s Night, and Trans Night.

“There is no judgment,” she said. “All are welcoming. My confidence levels are building and building.”

She said she was so happy with everything the TCC gave her that she wanted to help them.

“I knew I wanted to give back to these people who have given me so much love, so now I volunteer as a part- time receptionist,” Kennedy said. “I’m the girl behind the desk.”

Sean-Michael Hazuda, executive director at the TCC, said the TCC focuses on three areas: community, education and service.

“We provide up to 30 services,” he said.

The TCC offers food, housing, and employment assistance. It offers groups for recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, parents and friends of LGBTQ persons, and mental health counseling.

LGBTQ statistics: Source, Triangle Community Center

 In Fairfield County, one in every four LGBTQ people goes without food on a regular basis.

  25 percent of LGBTQ people are going hungry.

 There is 14.1 percent unemployment for LGBTQ people, compared to the national average of 3.9 percent.

 Transgender people have a 31 percent chance of being physically harmed.

“We need to have a sensitivity to those issues,” Hazuda said. “Education is very important — raising awareness in the general public.”

TCC has a “compassionate and loving staff. A lot of times, LGBTQ people don’t find that — not at home, not in the workplace, not in the general public,” Hazuda said. “We want to inspire people’s hearts and change their lives for the better.”

Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement

The Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement was the first 100 Who Care Darien grant recipient.

The movement was created after the Sandy Hook School shooting. It strives to teach children at a young age to be compassionate.

“Scarlett Lewis’ son Jesse was lost that day, and immediately, within two weeks, she said ‘I’m going to change the world. I’m going to make this so it doesn’t happen. Nobody should go through this,’” said Robert Haines, who is on the organization’s board of directors.

Lewis travels to schools across the country to talk about the movement.

People who are passionate about the movement are “trying to get it into all of their communities as much as possible,” he added. They do this through phone calls, emails, and Facebook.

The estimated number of children impacted by the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement is 1.5 million children, according to Haines.

Carver Foundation of Norwalk

The mission of the Carver Foundation is to help young people reach their greatest potential by providing educational, social and recreational programs in a positive, safe, and fun environment.

The Carver Foundation provides after-school programs for middle and high school students, as well as summer programs serving kindergarten through ninth grade students.

“We help those who are economically challenged,” Executive Director Novelette Peterkin said.

“We partner with the principals. We hire all the people from the school to work in the program,” Peterkin said. “We have access to all the resources and facilities.”

Students get help with all their homework and projects.

All of Carver’s summer programs “are infused with reading and math. We partner with the city of Norwalk as well and they help support us so the programs remain affordable,” she said.

Last year, Carver served 1,911 students and graduated 49 students. It currently has over 200 students in college, according to Peterkin.

Laurel House

Laurel House provides mental health resources to people coping with mental illness and their families, across numerous communities in and around Connecticut.

Clients get help with social skills, rehabilitation skills, employment, education, and housing, according to Linda Autore, president and CEO.

“We served 860 individuals last year,” Autore said.

She added that supportive education “is one of those evidenced-based programs that really works. It is the joy of education, of learning, of mastering an accomplishment, accomplishing goals.”

Laurel House also offers learning strategies, coping skills, and ongoing counseling, as well as services to clients’ families.

Autore said Laurel House is always looking for volunteers.

“We will build a workshop around your talent,” she said.

About 100 Who Care Darien

This is a group of Darien area residents who meet quarterly to vote among local charitable organizations to receive its members’ pooled funds. Each member commits to a $100 donation per meeting, resulting in a $10,000 donation per quarter that helps raise awareness and boost engagement between community members and the local organizations that need their help.

sfox@darientimes.com