Rebecca Hayward is a Westporter, and director of new business development at Give Back LLC. Founded by Stephen Pallotta — the winner of Oprah’s Big Give — it’s an organization that empowers people to start their own charitable foundations, then work with companies to raise even more money for philanthropy.
This week, Give Back was featured on Sirius XM 104 “Stand up with Pete Dominick” — and each day, a different non-profit organization was highlighted. On Tuesday, Jeff Wieser — president of Westport’s Homes With Hope — was interviewed.
Rebecca sent “06880” these key ideas from the show, along with her own thoughts.
Westport is often referred to as a bubble. Some believe it is a bubble of only wealth and privilege. But in this beautiful bubble there is a huge heart, and an incredible community.
Just look around town during this holiday season. You’ll see a giving tree at the YMCA for families in need. You’ll receive letters from the PTA, and others for a massive program run by Human Services for Families in Need.
In this wonderful, beautiful bubble those families in need may be your neighbor or friend who has gone through a divorce, lost a job, suffered the effects of addiction or mental illness, or had another tragedy. Our community lessens their woes through love, kindness, and community outreach.
So it is with homelessness too.
Ask yourself what would it be like to not have your own home. You might be asked to give up your pets — possibly even your children — because you can’t house them.
This beautiful bubble of Westport gives homeless families — especially women who head households with children, as well as mentally ill people — dignity and hope often when their families have abandoned them, and they have nowhere to turn.
In his interview Jeff shared the genesis of Homes With Hope, and its mission. He described its founding by Westport’s robust interfaith council 30 years ago. At a time when many suburban communities were pushing homeless people toward cities, Westport embraced that population.
For 3 decades Homes With Hope has assessed homeless people’s issues, offered professional social work support, helped them find work, and secured independent housing. In cases of mental illness or disability, the organization finds subsidized housing.
Every day — 365 days a year — volunteers arrive at the Gillespie Center shelter to serve hot meals. Westporters also prepare holiday meals for families without the means to make their own. Staples clubs are involved too, by maintaining the shelter’s grounds and fundraising.
On Sirius XM, Jeff noted there are not many suburban communities with the will or wherewith to attack the problem, and help. He added that Homes With Hope’s strongest supporters are parents.
He said that Westporters can’t just hide in their bubble. He called this an enlightened community, one that helps its own residents in times of trouble. And, he noted, when you help others to make their lives richer, the entire community benefits.
Finally, Wieser was asked what one of the most rewarding aspects of his work was. He answered, “gratitude. The outpouring of appreciation from the people Homes With Hope helps is priceless.”
At the end of the day, isn’t that what life is about? Finding gratitude for the big things and small things, helping others, and building community?