Giving Day, Feb. 27

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

Thursday, Feb. 27, was Fairfield County's Community Foundation’s annual Giving Day.

In one 24-hour period, from midnight to 11:59 p.m. on Giving Day, participants got the chance to raise as much money as possible for local nonprofit organizations throughout Fairfield County, through online donations. The minimum donation was $10 and there was no maximum.

Participants got to choose where their donations went from a list of eligible nonprofits.

Darien nonprofits that participated in Giving Day include: Darien YMCA, the Mather Homestead Foundation, Person-to-Person, and the YWCA of Darien/Norwalk.

To view all the nonprofits that participated in Giving Day, visit

Prizes will be given out to the nonprofits in a variety of categories, including “Most Unique Donor,” “Most Dollars Raised,” “Newbie,” and “Seasoned Enthusiast.”

Darien YMCA

The Darien YMCA is asking for donations to help children from kindergarten through 10th grade get the chance to go to the Y’s summer camps.

At the camps, children have an opportunity to make friends, build self-confidence and learn good sportsmanship, according to camp director Suzanne Richards.

The preschool camp, for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, offers sports such as kicking the ball, running races, and playing with parachutes.

Children can also take swimming lessons and music class, and have circle time and playground time.

In the 4- and 5-year-old age group, there are also sailing programs that are designed to get children comfortable on the water, as well as water safety instruction.

The older children’s camp is held at Hindley Elementary school. Sports that these campers participate in include kickball, soccer, baseball, sailing and boating, as well as capture the flag, Frisbee, and golf.

Children can also take part in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), creative building, Legos, and science experiments, as well as slime making and arts and crafts.

Richards added that there’s a large number of children at the camps with special needs.

“These children are integrated into the camps’ typical camp programs,” she said. “The children who are typical learn patience and understanding.”

Through the varied activities offered at the Y’s summer camps, “a lot of them are learning new skills,” Richards said. “We try to create things that they may not have the opportunity to do outside of camp. They work together as a team and make lifelong friends.”

As an example, Richards said her daughter started going to the camp at age 3. She met another girl there who didn’t live in her town and didn’t go to the same schools.

“Now they are both 20 years old and still consider each other best friends,” Richards said.

The Mather Homestead Foundation

The Mather Homestead hopes to raise funds from Giving Day to be put towards an ADA accessible driveway and parking spots, as well as the audiovisual system for its new Education Center.

“Our goal this spring is to raise $30,000 to cover these two vital components of the project, which will allow us to host groups of all kinds and feature historical movies and documentaries in the new center,” said Lauren Swenson, the Mather Homestead Foundation's executive director.

According to Swenson, the new driveway would meet town requirements and allow visitors with accessibility needs to access the education center, as well as allow access for emergency vehicles.

“Our goal is to widen the lower driveway and put in two parking spots,” Swenson added.

She said she hopes to have all work completed by May or June “so that we can open the new building to the public for our fall events.”

Construction is going well, according to Swenson. “The mild winter weather has helped,” she said.

The Mather Homestead was built in 1778 and is known for its important role during the Revolutionary War. It’s also the home of Stephen Tyng Mather, the founder and first director of the National Park Service.

Person-to-Person (P2P)

Person-to-Person’s Giving Day campaign is focusing on its Million Meals campaign.

According to Rebecca Cosgrove, P2P’s communications and marketing manager, as the need in the surrounding community continues to grow, the Million Meals Fund supports P2P’s food assistance program, run through food pantries in Darien and Norwalk, and the mobile food pantry in Stamford.

“Our pantries provide dignity and choice along with fresh and nutritious options, and give access to casework services and other critical assistance that P2P offers,” Cosgrove said.

“At the end of 2019, P2P reached a significant milestone - our three food pantries had distributed enough food for more than 1.2 million (1,220,499) home-cooked meals,” Cosgrove added.

According to Cosgrove, 1 in 10 people in the Stamford/Norwalk area experience food insecurity - which means not knowing where one’s next meal is coming from.

P2P’s pantries “provide a critical resource to individuals who face daily challenges and difficult choices,” Cosgrove said. “This access to fresh food brings relief and stability to families, seniors, immigrants, and the working middle class, and helps to create a healthier, more vibrant and sustainable community.”

P2P provided services for close to 25,000 people in 2019, including 9,000 children, from throughout lower Fairfield County.

YWCA Darien/Norwalk

For Giving Day, the YWCA Darien/Norwalk is asking people, “Why do you support the YW?”

Executive Director Judy Phillips said that in talking to many people in town, she often gets to hear stories of how lifelong friendships were made through various YWCA activities.

These activities have included a Newcomers event, playgroups, the Gourmet Club and Toddler Time.

Phillips said she also hears many multi-generational stories from people participating in programs now because their parents participated when they first moved to town. Now that they’re moving back into town as adults, they join the Y to meet new people.

One such story involves Marli Hayes, director of community services at the Y. She and her husband Patrick met another couple — Karen and Vance Wilber — through YWCA Winetasters 17 years ago when they were both living in Darien, before they had children.

“Both Marli and Karen got pregnant with their first children here,” Phillips said. “The Hayes’ moved to Florida, where Emily was born. One week later, Jack was born.”

The two families kept in touch, each had daughters one year apart. Clara Wilber was born locally and Megan was born in Florida. The Hayes eventually moved back to Darien.

“The two families enjoyed five years together in town before the Wilbers moved to the Chicago area, where they remain today,” Phillips said. Despite living so far away from each other, “the families remain close because of the bond they formed as couples here in town.”

The Y will be using social media to post videos, quotes and pictures that help to tell their stories.

To share a Y story, email or post them on social media using the Facebook tag @ywcaDarienNorwalk, or @ywcadn for Instagram.

The money raised through Giving Day will be used to underwrite the prizes for the Y’s Stand Against Racism essay contest and its Young Women of Distinction scholarship.