“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”
Who knew that Hal David and Burt Bacharach were philosophers? Their 1965 song perfectly captured the ethos of an era through reference to a universal and eternal value – love.
The ancient Greeks had six words for love. One, agape or “selfless love,” referred to the love “extended to all people, whether family members or distant strangers.” Its Latin translation is caritas, which in English is rendered “charity.” C.S. Lewis referred to charity as “gift love.” So, charity is simply love in gift form.
On November 16th, The Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education (www.innercityfoundation.org) holds its 26th annual benefit dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich. The dinner is the organization’s single largest fundraising event each year. Entertainment will be provided by New Orleans’ legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band (www.preservationhalljazzband.com). Over the past quarter century, the foundation has awarded more than $29 million to 200 Fairfield County organizations that address the most basic needs of our local neighbors – specifically, at-risk and needy children and adults – including education, food, clothing, shelter and help for addiction, recovery and domestic violence. It is a wonderful example of that old adage, “charity begins at home.”
The need is shockingly extreme: the United Way’s 2016 ALICE Study of Financial Hardship reported that 38% of Connecticut residents can’t meet the basic standard of living or are in poverty. Within Fairfield County, the percentages range from below average (Greenwich 20%, Fairfield 21%, Shelton 27%) to average (Stamford 35%, Norwalk 36%) to astoundingly high (Bridgeport 63%). Even the low range is unacceptable; the high range boggles the mind. There clearly is much work to do in our own backyard.
We are fortunate to have many wonderful charitable organizations in our area, with many hundreds of our Greenwich neighbors giving selflessly of their time and treasure to help others in many ways with multiple challenges. What is it that makes the Inner-City Foundation stand out?
Not to be confused with the similarly-named foundation in New York City from which it took its inspiration, the Bridgeport-based Inner-City Foundation was created in the early 1990s by a group of local business and religious leaders which included then-Bishop Edward Egan, Jack Welch, John Carter, Bob Ix and others. In a period of economic recession, they were concerned about the near- and long-term impacts on Fairfield County of dwindling job opportunities, the rise in poverty and crime, and the attendant strain on public resources available to provide relief.
The business leaders were painfully aware of the pressing need to address these concerns in order to maintain an environment conducive to business, and the religious leaders were similarly painfully aware of the ever-increasing strain on their financial and programmatic resources driven by the dramatic growth in need. They came up with a clever idea: combine forces and set up an independent, non-sectarian, non-denominational 501(c)(3) foundation which could raise funds publicly and leverage the existing infrastructure of churches and other charitable entities to put those funds to work intelligently and with minimal “friction costs.” The result has been an extraordinary decades-long partnership in which 90 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to benefit the neediest of our neighbors in Fairfield County, and where grant-receiving high schools are sending 100% of their graduates on to college. It would be hard to find a more heartwarming example of truly being “our neighbor’s keeper.”
Kudos to the Inner-City Foundation for Charity & Education. Perhaps they should re-name it “The Foundation for Love in Action”!