Here's the goal: $300,000 in under three months and a new level of understanding across class boundaries in Branford.
It's a big goal. But the talents behind Branford Cares -- Rev. Sharon Gracen of and a host of other community leaders, including Selectman Andy Campbell, President Ed Lazarus and Branford Community Foundation President Eunice LaSala -- are going for it. And they're going to have fun while they do. This means a summer of street music, block parties, dinners, tag sales and lemonade stands.
At the Branford Festival, it meant a booth on the Green where Gracen and others spent the day personally reaching out to the community they serve. The booth served as the official launch for Branford Cares, which will run through Labor Day.
"I think the fact we're doing something in a different way, empowering the town to figure out our own way of doing it, has captured the imagination," Gracen told Patch. "At the booth, a number of people came by and said they needed help. And we had information there to help them. The whole idea of the booth was awareness, awareness, awareness, because so many people in branford have no idea the size of the need."
Gracen and other clergy incubated the idea for Branford Cares last fall, and 2012 has been a year of , picking up support from civic organizations across Branford. Gracen says more and more are attending the group's weekly brown bag lunch , and the community is starting to realize how important it is to bring the negative effects of income inequality into the light.
"Branford is kind of a microcosm of our culture," Gracen said. "We have such an income gap -- we have the very wealthy and the absolute poorest in branford. And those ends of the spectrum have lost touch with each other."
Gracen encourages everyone in the community, rich and poor, to join forces with Branford Cares by registering their events on the group's website. Virtually any event can serve as a Branford Cares event -- currently on the calendar are a lemonade stand (July 5 at the Branford Early Learning Center), street musicians on the Green (starting June 22 and continuing through the summer), and a to debut his 25 portraits of people making a difference in Branford.
Gracen has high hopes for the summer. She has no doubt Branford Cares will reach its goal.
"People are generous," she says, "If you give them the opportunity."