In 2014, $40 million fell from the sky. It landed on the Westport Weston Family YMCA.
The money came from the estate of Ruth Bedford. A Y trustee emeritus and noted philanthropist — and the granddaughter of Edward T. Bedford, who established the Y in 1923, and daughter of Frederick T. Bedford, who helped found Camp Mahackeno 21 years later — she died at 99, just 2 days before the Y’s 90th annual meeting. It was the last one held in the original Bedford building.
Ruth Bedford’s bequest — a surprise to Y officials — would enable the organization to “lead the community and change lives for the next 100 years,” they said.
A year later, the Y announced the formation of a $5 million Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund. Money came from Ruth Bedford’s gift, and one from past president and longtime trustee Allen Raymond.
The goal was to provide grants in areas like child welfare, substance abuse, community service and military outreach, serving children and young adults in Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport.
The first grants were awarded in 2016. Last year, the Bedford Social Responsibility Fund made 25 donations, totaling $280,000.
Recipients included Achievement First Bridgeport Academy, Adam J. Lewis Academy, Carver Foundation, Cardinal Sheehan Center, Horizons, Mercy Learning Center, Neighborhood Studios, Norwalk Community College Foundation, Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, Silvermine Guild of Artists, and Staples Tuition Grants.
The fund is gearing up for its 2022 grant cycle. Non-profits can apply now — but the deadline is Friday (September 10). Click here for more information.
Libby McKinney Tritschler is Ruth Bedford’s great-niece. She and fellow Y board member Juliane Sunderland co-chair the Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund.
“It’s been so eye-opening to make site visits. We’ve learned so much about the need to close the education gap, and give opportunities to children and young adults,” Sunderland says.
“This is all about community,” Tritschler adds. “The Y is a beautiful facility, but this money is another way we can show we’re part of the community — and communities nearby. I’m honored to be able to continue my family’s legacy of giving back.
“Westport got very lucky that my great-grandfather lived here, and opened the Y. His only request was that everyone in town get behind it. Now, thanks to his children and grandchildren, I can help make sure the Y keep on its mission to serve children and young adults.”
(For more information on the Bedford Family Social Responsibility Fund, click here.)
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