'Tis the season to make a difference

See Our Videos

Businesses provide for needy families

by Rob Varnon
Connecticut Post

December 23, 2006

Westport-based Source Marketing has a budget to give holiday gifts to its clients. But this year the public relations firm scrapped the practice and used the money to bring holiday celebrations to 45 needy families.

Sarah Stabile, Source's public relations director, said the company contacted its clients to explain its plan and that the clients agreed it was a better use of money.

"They don't need another bottle of wine," Stabile said of the Fortune 500 companies that backed the decision.

The company used its funds to "adopt" the 45 families that are clients of Norwalk Emergency Shelter.

"We're happy to do this because it's a chance to give to people who are barely getting by," Stabile said.

Source's 45 employees helped give 300 people a nice holiday. On Dec. 8, the employees hit the streets in teams and shopped for the families, and three days later they held a wrapping party.

"We got blessed by it," said Carol Antonetz, executive director of Norwalk Shelter. "They're wonderful people."

But even with Source's contribution, Antonetz said, there were 20 families not adopted this season. There was a total of 120 families who needed help, she said.

"We're trying to find some money to do something for them," she said of the remaining families.

Other charities state on their Web sites that they need more donations to provide food, clothing, shelter and other services to people in the region. Those charities include Bridgeport Rescue Mission and Operation Hope, based in Fairfield.

Paul Timpanelli, president and chief executive officer of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said he hadn't heard of any other businesses turning over their holiday budgets and parties to charity.

He commended Source for doing something noble.

Timpanelli said businesses here have a history of helping throughout the year.

It is simply the right thing to do, said Attorney Richard Bieder of the law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder.

The firm donated 15 laptops to the Bridgeport school system this month, Bieder said, because fellow partner Mike Koskoff said the firm should do something to improve education in the city.

"Bridgeport's been pretty good to us," so the firm believes it should return the favor, he said.

Bieder said there is plenty of opportunities for businesses to help Bridgeport schools. He said the firm chose to donate laptops in the hope students will eventually be able to take them home to do their assignments.

The 15 computers are to go to Winthrop Middle School and will be used as a pilot program that could lead to further use of computers throughout the district, he said. The district is loading the computers with programs this month and they should be in the schools soon.

The firm spent about $7,500 to buy the laptops, Bieder said, adding it got a deal by buying in bulk.

What prompted the decision to help the school district was a conversation about computers as the partners were deciding what upgrades they needed for their office systems. Bieder said they starting talking about how important it is to be computer-savvy and what future generations will have to know. That led to a discussion about the schools. But instead of stopping there, the firm decided to determine whether there was something it could do to help and called the district to work out this plan.

Coretta Dean, director of education technology for the district, said in a news release she is excited about the donation because it will help more children gain exposure to technology.

The major concern for the district was whether the donation would reduce state and federal aid, but Bieder said it doesn't appear it will. He challenged other Bridgeport businesses to get involved with the school district and to change a life for the better.

To help the Norwalk Emergency Shelter, call 866-1057, or visit www.norwalkemergencyshelter.org. For information on the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, call 333-4087, or visit www.bridgeportrescuemission.org. For information on Operation Hope, call 254-2935, or visit www.operationhope.org.