By Richard Kaufman for Greenwich Sentinel
Barbara's House receives “Build a Reindeer” project from Round Hill Community Church as a welcome present to their new space on St Roch Ave. (contributed photo)
It’s the season of giving, and Barbara's House is doing its part to help those in need.
Established in 1955, Barbara's House has adapted and added programs over the years to reach a growing population of overlooked residents. Barbara's House’s core services include counseling, advocacy, and educational and social support for families, senior citizens, and immigrants who might be facing challenges with things like food insecurity or employment.
The COVID-19 pandemic amplified those issues, so Barbara's House responded.
“When COVID happened, we knew that our clients were likely to be very hard hit by this. Many of our clients work in medical settings, so they were going to be at risk for getting sick. We have senior clients who weren’t going to be able to leave home to go grocery shopping. We have lots of clients who, if they’re already facing food insecurity, if they’re already facing employment challenges, they’re going to have an even harder time,” said Barbara's House Executive Director, Gabby Rattner.
Just prior to COVID, Barbara's House had partnered with Food Rescue and Neighbor to Neighbor to provide after school snacks to children.
“We pivoted to become a food distribution hub for our clients,” Rattner said.
Barbara's House will now deliver Thanksgiving meal boxes to 45 families and 75 individual senior citizens on Wednesday morning, thanks to donations from various foundations and individuals in town.
“It’s personally, professionally, and organizationally among the most satisfying things that we’ve done,” Rattner said. “The pandemic made a lot of people feel really helpless. Knowing that we are making even a little bit of difference during such a difficult time, it’s the reason we’re here.”
Last week, in order to give back to Barbara's House and commemorate their new location (they recently moved to St. Roch Avenue) members from Round Hill Community Church donated Build A Reindeer kits for Barbara's House’s youth.
Similar to Build A Bear, children will be able to make their own stuffed reindeer, complete with a Santa costume.
“They’re just so beautiful. It’s a wonderful, wonderful gift and we’re really excited to give it out,” Rattner said.
Additionally, Round Hill Community Church set up a Target gift registry for Barbara's House’s youngest clients. The children picked out what they wanted, and members of the Round Hill Church community will buy the gifts, which will be distributed just before Christmas.
“They’re just the most phenomenally generous and warm and incredible community,” Rattner said of Round Hill Community Church. “We’re very grateful.”
Barbara's House will also take part in a shopping event in town. From Dec. 6-12, 10% of all sales at Back 40 Mercantile in Old Greenwich will go to Barbara's House, if customers mention Community Centers Inc. Another shopping event with a different merchant in town is expected to be announced soon.
Rattner said she’s thankful for all the volunteers who have helped Barbara's House in these difficult times, and that it’s been a “privilege” to work with so many organizations who want to help, like Jewish Family Services, At Home In Greenwich, Greenwich Senior Center, Neighbor to Neighbor and River House.
“To collaborate with these organizations to do what needs to be done is also incredibly powerful, because no one agency can do this alone. It’s just very meaningful to be a part of that consortium,” Rattner said.
For more information on Barbara's House, go to barbarashousect.org.