Entering the Carousel Building at the Beardsley Zoo, families were greeted by Santa and his elves and other members of the ODFC Economic Security Committee Workgroup serving up pizza and sweet treats.
Face painting, carousel riding, and photos with Santa preoccupied the children as the adults stayed behind to talk and unwind.
This festive celebration was presented by ODFC and a coalition of community partners brought together around the Secure Jobs initiative to celebrate the success of families who secured employment and training. This initiative is funded primarily by The Melville Charitable Trust with support from The Community Fund of Darien; Fairfield County’s Community Foundation; New Canaan Community Foundation, and the United Way of Coastal Fairfield County.
Caitlin Mongillo from Career Resources and Samantha Stewart from Supportive Housing Works emceed the evening’s program, providing an introduction to Secure Jobs and reflecting on the families’ journeys.
Reflecting on the evening’s celebration, Caitlin spoke with pride and admiration for the families, stating, “Though not all of them are working at this time, they are all taking giant strides to improve their lives. They may have started school, or participated in a training class, or been on interviews or gotten connected with necessary community resources. This is a big step for so many of them, and we are truly proud of what they have accomplished.”
Families were called up to receive awards for the progress they have made in securing employment as well as special categorical awards that included “Reinvention,” “Dream Big,” “Spirit,” and “Resilience.” Award recipients provided inspiring speeches of the challenges they had to overcome.
After the celebration, Samantha Stewart recalled the challenging journey each family has been on:
“On the employment awards was the quote, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ The journey to self-sufficiency and economic freedom may feel like a journey of a thousand miles for our families. However, all of our families deserve to be recognized for that first single step. It was an honor to give the awards and to have so many families and professionals enjoy the evening together. It is my hope that we will continue to host events like this in the future.”
Secure Jobs CT is a two-year demonstration pilot designed to increase the income of families transitioning from homelessness to housing by connecting them to the education, training, and supports they need to secure and maintain stable, competitive employment.