For 171 years — from tough times during the Civil War, through its heydays under Mayor P.T. Barnum and as a major manufacturing city, and into its decline as opportunities and resources moved elsewhere — LifeBridge has been an anchor for Bridgeport’s most vulnerable residents.
Over more than a century and a half, the agency has evolved. It began as a Ladies Relief Society, was renamed the Bridgeport Orphan Asylum, became Woodfield Children’s Village and then Family Services of Woodfield. In 2015, it was renamed LifeBridge Community Services.
During more than 25 years in Westport, Howard Greene has seen the disparity between his neighbors here, and those less than 10 miles away.
One in every 3 Bridgeport children lives in poverty. The largest city in the state is the 5th poorest; its unemployment rate of almost 12% is twice that of the rest of Connecticut. Over 11% of youth ages 18-24 do not graduate from high school.
Greene’s involvement with LifeBridge spans many years. Now board chair, he hopes to spread the word about the many programs and resources the organization offers.
Before the pandemic, he hosted a reception at Wakeman Town Farm with CEO Alan Mathis.
They described LifeBridge’s efforts to help disadvantaged youth ages 11-14. For example, their Urban Scholars Program offers art, music, martial arts, robotics, dance, science and math instruction and projects led by professionals in their fields. There is personal tutoring too.
The free programs run for 3 hours after school. LifeBridge also sponsors a 2-month full-day summer camp.
Funding comes from private donations, as well as local foundations like Newman’s Own, the Westport Weston Family YMCA’s Bedford Social Responsibility Fund, and Near & Far Aid.
LifeBridge also provides behavioral health services, with nurses, counselors, social workers, therapists and addiction specialists working in areas like domestic violence, adolescent wellness, substance abuse and family therapy.
A community closet provides clothing and personal care items, while the WorkSkills programs prepares people 18 years and older for jobs in today’s economy.
Many Westporters have not heard of LifeBridge. Thanks to the work of Howard Greene and others, many Bridgeporters have. For them, it is a true bridge toward a better life.
(To learn more about LifeBridge, including how to volunteer and donate, click here.)