Quiet Heroes of New Canaan: Hunter Van Veghel

The food drive that New Canaan-based nonprofit organization Filling In The Blanks ran that day had already been a huge success. 

Held May 21 at New Canaan Library, it saw about 100 vehicles come through and raised some 5,200 individual food items for the organization, according to co-founders and co-Presidents Tina Kramer and Shawnee Knight. Launched in 2013, the organization provides thousands of area children in need with weekend meals. The generous donations at the food drive organized with the library are especially important at a time of wide food scarcity, Kramer said. ”We are having difficulty purchasing the food we need, because the sources we usually use are not able to get us the items we are used to, so we have to buy retail,” she said. At about 5 p.m. that Thursday, members of the Filling In The Blanks team were unloading a truck of food at the organization’s Norwalk warehouse when the driver, 2012 New Canaan High School graduate Hunter Van Veghel, spotted a few young kids playing basketball at a shuttered school nearby.

New Canaan Community Foundation Awards $650,000 in Grants

The New Canaan Community Foundation celebrated its annual Grant Awards Ceremony Thursday morning, where the agency divided $650,000 among 80 local nonprofit organizations. NCCF Board Chair Sharon Stevenson said the ceremony provided a chance to “come together to celebrate and look forward to our shared work going forward.”

“This patchwork of investments is touching a broad range of needs in our community,” Stevenson said during the hourlong event, attended by more than 150 people and held in the Lamb Room at New Canaan Library. With its other grant programs, NCCF will invest more than $1 million dollars in grant aid this year. John Knight, the organization’s Distributions Committee chair, said the grant investments “depend primarily on the generosity of local donors.”

The 2017 Fundraising Appeal Committee, co-chaired by Sara and Spencer Schubert and Linda and Jay Twombly, led efforts to raise the donated funds. This year’s 92 grant requests totaled nearly $1.3 million.

‘It’s People Like Me’: Filling In The Blanks Club at NCHS

New Canaan High School junior Grace Brown learned last year about locally based Filling In The Blanks from the organization’s co-founder, Shawnee Knight. The nonprofit provides meals on the weekends and through the summer to needy kids at several area schools and community centers. Yet as the base of kids served by Filling In The Blanks has expanded—from DOMUS to Bedford Hills Elementary School to KT Murphy, Roxbury, Boys and Girls Club and Chester Addison Community Center—the need for volunteers to support the organization also has grown (more on that below). Together with classmate Maggie DeFrancesco, Brown as a sophomore launched the Filling In The Blanks Club at NCHS—an extracurricular group whose members say they receive immediate and special rewards as they do good for peers in neighboring communities. “We just wanted to raise some money and awareness for the organization and help provide for kids who really couldn’t afford to have three meals a day on weekends,” DeFrancesco said on Thursday afternoon outside NCHS Room 223, where more than a dozen underclassmen who had signed up during Club Fair waited to more hear about Filling In The Blanks.

Did You Hear … ?

1994 New Canaan High School graduate David Burns is participating this coming Sunday in a special fund- and awareness-raising walk for a very personal reason. Burns, a tennis standout here in town who is now a 40-year-old father of two, was diagnosed last Novemeber with a life-threatening liver disease, and received a transplant in January at UCLA hospital. He’s participating in Liver Life Walk Los Angeles 2015. Together with sisters Mollie and Eliza, their team—the Healthy Hedgehogs—has raised more than $10,000 for the 5K walk, an important fundraiser for the American Liver Foundation. And he’s doing this within months of his surgery.

New Canaan Nonprofits Participating in ‘Giving Day’

On Thursday, some 18 New Canaan nonprofit organizations will participate in a 24-hour fundraising blitz known as Giving Day. Hosted by the Fairfield County Community Foundation under the slogan “Give Where You Live” and with a goal of raising $1 million on a single day, Giving Day invites donors to give at least $10 to as many charities as they can. The organization that has the most individual donations will win an extra $25,000, while the organization that raises the most money will get another $20,000 (more information on prizes is available here). We asked participating local nonprofits to send us a single sentence communicating to NewCanaanite.com readers why they’re a great candidate for a donation on this day. Here are the New Canaan nonprofits, according to the Giving Day website, with their responses (those agencies that have not yet responded can email me directly at editor@newcanaanite.com and I will update this story):

A Better Chance of New Canaan: “The mission of the ABC of New Canaan is to offer capable minority youth the opportunity to learn in a superior educational program while also preparing them to assume positions of responsibility and leadership in American society.”
Carriage Barn Arts Center/New Canaan Society for the Arts: “Please support the New Canaan Society for the Arts/Carriage Barn Arts Center on this Fairfield County Giving Day and help us fulfill our goal of providing exceptional art exhibitions, accessible children’s art education, and cultural programs.”
Filling in the Blanks: “Your support will allow FILLING IN THE BLANKS to provide over 300 hungry children with meals on the weekend.”
Future 5: “Now with over 100 active members, Future 5 is helping motivated, low income high school students stay on track and connect to their full potential.”
Getabout
Hungry Kidzz: “We provide weekend bags of food during the summer, a 4th of July ‘Freedom (barbecue) Box’ and 1000s of holiday stockings in December.”