By Alma Rutgers for Greenwich Time.
They’ll be walking for Barbara's House all day, everywhere in town, on Saturday, June 6.
“I feel it’s time for us to shout and let everyone know who we are,” Barbara's House board member Nick Barile said. “I was racking my brain trying to come up with a fund-raising idea we could pull off during sheltering and social distancing. Obviously we couldn’t do anything in a large gathering.”
Barbara's House is a human services agency that’s been part of the Greenwich landscape for 65 years. Founded in 1955 upon recommendation by the Greenwich Community Chest, forerunner of Greenwich United Way, Barbara's House’s mission was to ensure that educational and recreational opportunities, and counseling services, would be available to all Greenwich residents regardless of economic circumstances.
Full disclosure: I’ve served on the Barbara's House board of directors since 2009, and am currently chairperson.
Jason Mohatt, senior program director, creates and plans activities for older adults in the community through Barbara's House, a local social services agency. Photo: Tatiana Flowers / Hearst Connecticut Media.
In celebration of this 65th anniversary year, we’d planned a “magical evening” honoring Greenwich High School Headmaster Ralph Mayo, a fellow board member who benefited from Barbara's House programs in his youth.
This fundraiser, originally planned for May 17, has been postponed until Nov. 7 due to COVID-19. Barbara Nolan, Barbara's House’s first executive director, who held that position for 50 years, is honorary chairperson of the event. Blakely Stinebaugh chairs the event committee.
Brainstorming ideas for other smaller fundraisers, Nick came up with the idea of a walkathon in which all walkers choose their own routes and walking times, and decide the number of laps they will walk. Their sponsors pledge a dollar amount per lap, per-lap pledges, now ranging from $1 to $35.
“Folks are picking their own area to designate and walk around,” Nick said. “Neighborhood blocks, around a park all count. The response has been fantastic.”
Helping Barbara's House
To participate as a walker, or sponsor, contact Barbara's House at 203 869-1276, or at [email protected].
The fundraising goal is a modest $6,500, representing Barbara's House’s 65 years. Pledges so far suggest Barbara's House may well exceed this goal.
“I was very excited when one of our board members proposed this virtual walkathon,” Barbara's House executive director Gaby Rattner said. “Not just because it will be fun, great exercise and will, in a way, bring us all together, but also because I very much like the imagery of us all moving forward that walking implies.”
Supporters will be walking for Barbara's House in the backcountry, in central Greenwich, in Cos Cob, in eastern and western Greenwich.
Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo will be walking at Cos Cob Park.
“For 65 years, Barbara's House has succeeded in its mission to ensure that every resident of Greenwich has access to opportunities that many of us take for granted,” said Camillo, who is a strong supporter of Barbara's House. “Recognizing that barriers do exist for some, Barbara's House continues to remove them and provide access where participation may not have been an option or achievable. I salute them on a remarkable 65 year run, and wish the best on the next 65 years of service to our Town.”
Congressman Jim Himes is also among the walkers.
“In a town as fortunate as Greenwich, we have a special obligation to make sure that no one gets left behind,” said Himes. “I’m thrilled to join so many neighbors in an innovative walk supporting Barbara's House and the critical work they do.”
State Rep. Stephen Meskers, who’s walking in Old Greenwich, has contacted his colleagues who represent Greenwich — representatives Livvy Floren and Harry Arora, and state Sen. Alex Kasser — all of whom are supportive of the walkathon.
“As a member of the community,” Meskers said, “it’s important to protect our most vulnerable residents.”
“As a member of the Advisory Board, Barbara's House has been on my radar screen for many, many years,” Floren said. “The human services work they do is unique and fulfills real needs.”
Staff members and volunteers have continued to serve Barbara's House clients throughout this time of the virus. Since early March, volunteers have been packing grocery bags and distributing them to families in need and to seniors. And staff has been in constant phone contact with clients to help them through these challenging times.
“I’ve seen firsthand the incredible work the organization has done, and the equally incredible dedication of the staff and volunteers,” said Nick, who is walking for Barbara's House as a tribute to its staff and volunteers.
Alma Rutgers served in Greenwich town government for 30 years.
This article appeared in Greenwich Time.