By Len Suzio
“When times get tough, the tough get going,” describes the efforts of many community agencies that help the most vulnerable families of Meriden and surrounding communities, not only year-round, but especially during this COVID-19 crisis.
As a Connecticut senator in the 13th District, I came to know of the incredible work for community health and welfare that so many public agencies, e.g., Meriden Health Department, Women, Infant, and Children’s, and Meriden Housing Authority provide to the community, especially families in distress.
However, Meriden also has a multicolored tapestry of private agencies that also assist and empower Meriden residents toward a brighter future: Meriden Food Pantry, Salvation Army, New Opportunities, Children First Initiative and Master’s Manna (serving both Meriden and Wallingford). These public and private organizations are certainly on the front line in Meriden.
I have come to especially appreciate the 35 years of community service of Birthright of Greater Meriden through my wife, Kate Suzio. Co-directors of Birthright, Kate and Diana Javornisky, as well as many dedicated volunteers, have offered free, non-judgmental material and friendship counseling support to thousands of needy pregnant women and their babies over these years.
Every year Birthright volunteers help over 150 women and their babies each and every month with free pregnancy tests, maternity clothes, newborn layettes, diapers, formula and baby food, wooden cribs and mattresses, blankets, and supplemental funding for ultrasounds.
Birthright collaborates with the Meriden Health Department and other local organizations for a wide variety of baby necessities: free car seats, infant care, housing, education, employment, and mental health, domestic abuse, and adoption counseling. This is a great example of the teamwork among many social service providers in the community who work together to help those most in need.
As the needs of women in the community have grown in recent years, Birthright of Greater Meriden has steadily expanded its services to match those growing needs. Birthright has grown from 5 volunteers in the 1980’s to 20 volunteers today, from 30 clients per month almost 40 years ago to 150 needy women and their children every month year-round the last 10 years.
Every year Meriden Birthright distributes free-of-charge dozens of cribs and mattresses, many car seats, and more than 60,000 baby diapers! Birthright also arranges for free ultrasounds for pregnant women. Most people don’t know that Birthright offers free services and material support not only before birth, but for more than 2 years post birth as well.
Mothers and their babies helped by Birthright are both thankful and safer. Recently, a mother whose 3- month old twin girls were sleeping in bed with her, cried with joy and relief when her new wooden crib and mattress were delivered, paid for by Birthright.
It is no exaggeration to say that during the last 40 years Birthright has served the needs of thousands and thousands of Meriden women and their children.
Kate and I, in collaboration with Birthright (and Catholic Family Services and the Red Cross) hosted numerous pregnant mothers in our home over the years, and the great bonds we formed with those women continue to this day.
Birthright and many other private and public organizations truly bring hope, help, and encouragement for a better future to many needy families in Meriden. COVID-19 will never trample the resilient community of Meriden.
Len Suzio is a former state senator.