The Bridgeport Rescue Mission feeds 40,000 people a month. To the working poor, homeless and chemically dependent people who stream through its doors, the mission is literally a life-saver.
40,000 people need a lot of food. Most of it is donated by area churches, community group and individuals.
One very important partner is the Westport Farmers’ Market.
According to the CTbites blog, Farmers’ Market manager Lori Cochran Dougall searched for a long time for a Fairfield County shelter that would accept vendors’ unsold produce at the end of the day. But issues ranging from potential food spoilage to funding restrictions prevented her from helping.
Finally, someone referred her to chef Paul Byron of the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. He immediately sent a truck, with 2 residents, to Westport for a Thursday 2 p.m. pickup.
Word spread at the Farmers’ Market. The 2 p.m. pickup is now a regular event.
The impact of Westport’s weekly donation of fresh produce is enormous. CTbites quotes mission executive cirector Reverend Terry Wilcox:
Because we prepare and serve food every day, spoilage is not an issue. Chef Paul’s passion to feed the hungry allows him to take all of the food in. He puts it all to good use. With only 50% of kids in Bridgeport graduating from high school, better nutrition through fresh food is vital to their growing and being able to learn.
Thanks to the Westport Farmers’ Market, at 3 p.m. each Thursday — just 1 hour after the food has been picked up — fresh produce is available to anyone stopping by the mission. It’s displayed on long dining tables; guests select as many fresh fruits and vegetables as they can fit in 1 grocery bag.
Cochran Dougall’s impact on the Bridgeport Rescue Mission extends far beyond the produce donation. She recently helped secure a $70,000 grant from a couple in Jackson Hole.
Cochran Dougall told CTbites:
My husband and I attended a a 70th birthday celebration in honor of our good friend, Foster Friess. In lieu of gifts, he requested that each guest propose an organization that would benefit from a $70,000 donation. We made our case for why the Bridgeport Mission needed these funds so desperately. We fully expected him to choose one recipient. Instead, he awarded each of the proposed organizations the same generous amount!
The mission returns the favor. According to Cochran Dougall, one Thursday the weather suddenly turned wildly windy and rainy. Two men who make regular pickup runs stayed with her until all of the vendors’ tents were dismantled.
They didn’t want her to be alone.
Thanks to Cochran Dougall and the Westport Farmers’ Market, thousands of men, women and children in Bridgeport are not alone — and hungry — either.
(The Westport Farmers’ Market runs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through November 18. It’s located at the Imperial Avenue parking lot, near the Westport Woman’s Club.)