A note from CEO Nancy Coughlin, reflecting on her first year at Person-to-Person:
At Person-to-Person’s Annual Meeting on June 17, 2020, we paused to reflect on the organization’s many accomplishments of the past year. While looking back at a year marked by change and growth, we also set our sights on the opportunities and challenges in the year ahead.
I accepted the position of CEO of P2P in June 2019, replacing Ceci Maher who retired after fourteen years leading the organization. One of the first notes of congratulations I received was from another former long-time executive, Janet Evans. The longevity of successive leaders and the warmth they retain for this organization speaks to a culture of commitment and dedication to our vital core mission of creating pathways toward economic stability for individuals and families.
In the fall of 2019, P2P surpassed the sobering milestone of having provided enough healthy food to prepare over one million meals. This staggering accomplishment is a stark reminder of the tremendous level of need in our local community. It also is a testament to our ability, working together, to enhance food security for the thousands who rely on us.
P2P on Wheels, our mobile pantry that brings food where it needs to be in the City of Stamford, continued to expand in 2019. Two sites were added to serve low-income seniors, addressing a need often overlooked: older adults who have access to proper nutrition are more likely to remain independent and in their own homes. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mobile pantry is parked temporarily in anticipation of the day we can once again safely be within its enclosed space. Instead, we are currently distributing food out of facilities provided by two of our partner sites, The Boys & Girls Club at the Yerwood Center and Domus Kids. This has had the positive effect of adding a net four hours per week of available distribution time.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our other programs, as well. All three food programs pivoted quickly to curbside pick-up, keeping the health and safety of our clients, volunteers, and staff a priority. Demand for food assistance spiked over 60% since before the pandemic began, and we are providing almost twice as much food as we did at this time last year. Despite disruptions to food supply chains and increases in food prices, P2P remains committed to never turning away families in need. In early April, we launched a new program, Door2Door, a home delivery service to safely provide food assistance to anyone affected by COVID-19. With the help of volunteer drivers, well over 2,000 individuals have received Door2Door service since the start of the pandemic in mid-March. We will continue to offer this service as long as it is needed.
Our Summer Campership program has also been affected by the pandemic. When we finally had a clear picture of which camps would be able to operate, we learned that only about a quarter of our typical camp slots will be available this summer. Some parents are no longer employed or in need of summer care, but far more are “essential” workers or are eager to return to work to support their families. They work in grocery stores, as domestic workers, and in businesses that are reopening. Summer childcare is critical to these families. Despite the limited camp spaces available, P2P remains committed to assisting these families through the uncertain months ahead.
Connecticut has experienced record unemployment due to widespread pandemic-related closures. Ten thousand claims were filed on one day alone in March. Antiquated computer systems were overwhelmed; claimants waited weeks for word on the status of their claims. Many of those who lost their jobs quickly became P2P clients. Over a third of those seeking food assistance and 40% of those seeing financial assistance had never asked us for help before.
Despite a 60-day statewide grace period on rent payments announced by Governor Lamont in an Executive Order and a moratorium on new evictions, hundreds of tenants sought out P2P for assistance with rent. Economic uncertainty dictated renters not fall behind only to potentially face eviction later in the summer. P2P has assisted 550 families since the start of the pandemic to prevent them from becoming homeless. While we are grateful that protections for these families have been extended until August, we are extremely concerned that without significant investments in rent assistance, our area may face a wave of evictions this summer forcing families into precarious situations. In response to this pending crisis, P2P expects to devote almost one million dollars to keep families and individuals stably housed in the coming year.
Anyone with a family member or acquaintance graduating from high school or college this year knows the amount of disappointment that these graduates have faced. Just as schools have worked to pay tribute to this very resilient class of 2020, so has P2P worked to support our graduating P2P Scholars. Many are first-generation students and some struggle with access to resources such as internet connectivity and quiet spaces to study. We reached out to them immediately after their schools transitioned to online learning to assess their needs and offer our support. P2P board members and scholarship supporters created tribute videos to celebrate the significant achievements of these students. The 2020-2021 cohort of P2P Scholars have been awarded and we look forward to seeing all they will accomplish in this year ahead.
As much as the last quarter of the fiscal year was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, our current days are defined by the newly awakened commitment to racial justice taking hold across our country. Together with over 90 human service agencies in the greater Stamford area, P2P has signed on to a Call to Action to Stamford to Stand Against Racism. We commit to train our staff and volunteers in unconscious bias and to confront racism wherever we may see it. We have created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force and look forward to identifying and implementing concrete steps we can take to deepen our commitment to eliminating racism.
While the past year has been one of change, some truths remain constant. At P2P, we remain committed to achieving our vision of financially-stable, educated and hunger-free homes for all. We were founded on the belief that a group of committed people working toward a collective goal can achieve great things. We celebrate our volunteers and community partners who have made our work possible and look forward to many more years of improving lives and creating pathways toward economic stability for our neighbors.
Thank you for being an essential part of this journey. We are truly grateful for all you do.
With my best wishes,