This summer, a widespread coalition of Branford citizens and organizations are joining forces to live up to Branford's motto: "A town taking care of its own."
From its kickoff June 15 (the first day of the Branford Festival) through Labor Day, Branford Cares will try to raise $300,000 to provide struggling Branford citizens with "basic needs" - things like food, shelter and clothing.
In a speech on the steps of Town Hall Friday, Rev. Sharon Gracen of explained the rationale behind the drive.
"We're here because of the concern over the growing need for help,” she said. State and federal resources have decreased. Branford's unemployment rate is at , a decline from 7.1 earlier in the year but still high. Over 4,000 Branford residents live below the poverty line. Connecticut has the second highest level of income disparity in the nation.
"And many different studies show that when income disparity is greatest, trust begins to erode," Gracen said.
"As people's daily lives no longer overlap, they begin to lose touch with what life is really like for the other. Only the bonding of community and raising of awareness can turn those dynamics around ... A true community knows itself."
The drive's leaders include Gracen, Branford Community Foundation President Eunice Lasala, United Way of Greater New Haven Vice-President Maria Arnold, President Ed Lazarus and Selectman Andy Campbell.
Other organizations affiliated with Branford Cares include the Chamber of Commerce, the Orchard House and Guilford Savings Bank.
“But we need everyone’s help,” said Gracen. “The beauty of Branford Cares is there can’t be too many cooks in the kitchen.”
Existing community support organizations will be involved – the Branford Community Foundation serves as the fiduciary overseer, and the Branford Counseling Center will handle distribution of the expected $300,000 in funds after it has been collected. The Community Dining Room and the Branford Food Pantry will also share duties.
Gracen says the website branfordcares.org, which launched last week, is another crucial component of the drive. The site features a photo of a tiny, dilapidated "tarp home" less than a mile from waterfront property. "Your honest first response to the photo?' the site asks, "'This isn’t in Branford, is it?'" Gracen encouraged participants to use social media to get the word out about Branford Cares.