By Stephen Knight
Let’s get straight to the point: this column is written to: 1) acquaint you with the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, and 2) appeal to you to support this important endeavor.
Right now, a historical event of enormous consequence is gripping the world, our country, our state, our town or city, and every one of us as individuals. And as Benjamin Franklin so sagely stated: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Put in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, to beat the scourge of this virus and return our economy and society to health, we must all work together. Let me explain one way to do this.
The best analogy to describe this fund is that it is a modern version of a barn raising, a popular community project in 18th and 19th century rural North America. Essentially, when a farmer needed to build a barn, it became a community event in which every member — men, women and children — would participate. The practical reasons were many: it took a lot of labor and required a specialized set of skills, as well as a great deal of material, to build such a large structure. No one farm family had all of those resources – or money – and so the entire population would band together on a given day to raise at least the framework of the barn if not the entire structure. These popular barn raisings became emblematic of community cooperation, putting aside your individual needs to tend to another’s, knowing that ultimately it would be the entire community that benefited.
The idea of establishing an emergency fund was initiated by the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford. It became quickly apparent that social service agencies would require huge financial resources to help the thousands of folks who, through no fault of their own, found themselves jobless due to the shutdown required to fight the spread of COVID-19. Thus, two weeks ago the United Way gathered a group of ten nonprofit, foundation and business leaders to put the idea into practice.
The existing volunteer-staffed Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation was found to have the perfect structure to set up such a fund, and guidelines were drawn up. Because the existing social service providers were already “on the ground” and would be the best positioned to locate and aid the individuals impacted by this crisis, it was decided that the quickest and most efficient way to reach those in need would be through this agency network.
The initial goal – note: initial goal – is to raise $200,000 within two weeks. As of Thursday, April 16th, $71,200 had been committed. Obviously, the need extends way, way beyond this initial sum, but things are already getting frighteningly desperate for thousands of our neighbors, so the hope is to quickly raise this amount in order to begin meeting that need. Then build from there.
There have been many very generous contributors that brought the fund to this point, and this newspaper has hopefully provided the names of those organizations and individuals. But I am appealing to each and every one of you who are fortunate enough to still be employed to consider this:
If you have not already received it, shortly the federal government will be giving you $1,200 cash to “stimulate” the economy. For those of us who are still employed or in comfortable retirement, this is “found money” – money that we did not expect, money that was given to us TO HELP PEOPLE AND SAVE OUR ECONOMY.
I am straight out asking you to give a healthy portion of that money to the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund so that people that have lost their jobs can eat, can feed their family, and can sleep at night without the terror of becoming destitute next week. That is not an exaggeration; that is just how much trouble so many people are in right now, and most likely will continue to be even when the virus itself subsides.
Here’s how to donate: Donations can be made online at the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford website (unitedwaymw.org/MWCFCoronavirusResponseFund) or at the Meriden-Wallingford Community Foundation website (mw-cf.org). Checks can be mailed to the foundation at 35 Pleasant Street, Suite 1E, Meriden CT 06450. Information is on the United Way’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, or people can call the UWMW at 203-235-4403 in Meriden.
My $1,200 undeserved “windfall” has been sent to this fund. Not because I’m such a swell guy, believe me. I’m doing it as part of my plea. Please join me. We’re building a barn – a huge barn – for the thousands of our neighbors who need to find shelter in this storm.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford town councilor.