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Local Nonprofit Council Poised To Resume Meetings



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A grassroots organization that ramped up last year to provide support and resources to Newtown’s robust network of nonprofits is reconvening after an extended pause due to the pandemic.

The Newtown Non-Profit Council is poised to meet in a hybrid gathering on Thursday, October 22, between 9 and 10 am — in person at the C.H. Booth Library Gathering Space and via Zoom.

For the meeting they’ve billed as “a general sharing session,” organizers are asking each member to provide a brief update on their nonprofit’s status and plans. Representatives can also share visuals and links via Zoom chat or e-mail.

Paste the link in the chat and/or e-mail the link and flyer to be included in the meeting’s minutes to Library Director Doug Lord. Anyone wishing to join is asked to RSVP, and indicate by what means — in-person or remotely via Zoom — to Lord at dlord@chboothlibrary.org, who said he is glad to answer any questions as well.

For anyone planning to attend in-person, the Gathering Space at the C.H. Booth Library can comfortably hold 15 people observing social distancing protocols. First to RSVP are first served.

Organizers are asking in-person attendees to arrive by 8:45 am to allow time to be briefed on social distancing protocols. The meeting will not include refreshments.

Those who plan to attend via Zoom should log in, muted, starting at 8:50 am that morning to test their connections. Once logged in, visitors should add their full name and name of organization.

John S. Boccuzzi, Sr, a charter member of the group representing of Friends of Newtown Seniors (FONS), said partnerships between and among businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government entities that have so far come together through these meetings are essential for enhancing the vitality and livability of a community.

“The nonprofit council provides an environment in which organizations can share ideas and concerns and plan together to better serve the community,” Boccuzzi said. “At times we lose sight of what is happening in our own backyard and regular communication among groups helps us reconnect with each other and possibly refocus our energies to support each other’s initiatives.”

Long-Range Planning

Boccuzzi said like many nonprofits in town, it has been very difficult to provide services with concerns about COVID ever present.

“We continue to take a long-range view of planning and realize that implementation of projects will be delayed in many cases,” he said. “We must continue to identify needs, prioritize them, and work with others to respond to those needs.”

Boccuzzi said many service agencies are challenged to “identify needs in the community, communication links to and from the community, building volunteer bases, and judiciously allocating limited resources.

“Meeting the needs of the community often requires bringing together overlapping efforts and coordinating efforts to better serve those in need.”

As far as FONS is concerned, Boccuzzi said it is a totally mission driven organization

“The mission of the Friends of Newtown Seniors is to provide advocacy and services to those 55-plus who reside in Newtown. This will be accomplished in two complementary ways: through new initiatives conceived and developed by its board of directors and by partnering with various nonprofit, for-profit, governmental, political, and religious organizations serving the Newtown senior population.”

Lord said, “The nonprofit council is important because it links together those organizations and community members who are most interested in doing the real grassroots work of helping Newtown become a better place to live and work. One of my goals as Newtown’s librarian is to support each of these important community organizations and to ignite the spark of shared goals and resources so that all work together more effectively.”

Helen Brickfield, executive director of the nonprofit Chamber of Commerce of Newtown, said her organization’s mission is to support the local business community and that includes nonprofits.

“We are ineligible for grants or government funding and are pivoting to serve our members and survive,” she said. “We are concerned that during difficult times a community may lose some of the nonprofits as they are funded, like we are, through membership and events. We are working to support each other to make it through to better times.”

Pandemic Boosts Challenges

Katherine Simpson, who is a Newtown Helping Hands and Lions Club volunteer, commented that the pandemic has exacerbated challenges that were affecting nonprofits well before COVID-19.

“Fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and service delivery have been significantly challenged,” she said. “The good news is that these troubles have also revealed the merits of collaboration in overcoming the impacts on organizations that perhaps have a history of independence and competition.”

She referenced the pop-up nonprofit Newtown Helping Hands as a good example of the potential for a new model.

Launched early in the lockdown by Newtown Knights of Columbus and Matthew Rahtelli as an outreach to both struggling restaurants and struggling Newtown families, NHH invited local organizations to become collaborators and used them as well as extensive social media posts to the general population to both raise money and involve volunteers.

“The Newtown Lions Club and many other organizations signed on, providing both funds and links to volunteer pools,” she said. “The model could make a big difference for Newtown nonprofits, providing avenues to expand volunteer crews for specific projects, as well as giving volunteers a chance to meet volunteers from organizations they might one day join.”

She said the NHH team envisions a post-COVID transformation into a Newtown hub that brings together willing volunteers and funders with project needs, prioritizing cooperation and teamwork throughout the community.”

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