The South Norwalk Community Center is taking a look back at a year filled with excitement, change, and new partnerships.
Katherine Villanueva, our Chief Operating Officer, has demonstrated great leadership since her addition to our staff in January 2016.
Over the past year, the South Norwalk Community Center has teamed up with a wide range of community members and organizations to bring about opportunities and programs for the community. Additionally, we were able to construct a third classroom and a new reception area on the first floor. These facility improvements have allowed us to expand our programming and create an overall welcoming atmosphere at the Community Center.
Early last year, we teamed up with two fitness leaders, Liliana Skinner and Rafael Gomez, to bring much needed programs to our youth and adults. Liliana Skinner instructed a weekly yoga class, free of charge for the community, on Wednesday evenings, which will be starting up again this week on Mondays at 5pm. Rafael provided xFitness classes on Saturday mornings for both children and adults, and also collaborated with us during our Summer STEM Camp, bringing an hour of fitness to our 85 campers!
Throughout the year we hosted a multitude of weekly programs led by community members. These programs included: Alcoholics Anonymous, held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Fridays, Narcotics Anonymous, held on Thursdays, Alanon, held on Fridays, DTC meetings, held once a month, and several church groups on Tuesdays evenings and Sundays. The SafeRides program operated on Friday and Saturday evenings, in collaboration with Brien McMahon and Norwalk High School to secure safe transportation for those in need within our community. The South Norwalk Community Center is also home to Cub Scout Pack 98, which has 24 boys enrolled. Each month they participate in outdoor service projects and activities, both within our community and outside camp locations.
Our relationship with the Norwalk Public Schools and Board of Education grew tremendously last year. We ran a successful after school program, After the Bell, for the second year in a row, under the direction of Liza Montgomery. The program ran throughout most of the school year from Monday to Thursday, 3:30 to 5:30pm. 60 at risk community children received an additional hour of instruction from certified teachers, and participated in extracurricular activities. We partnered with the Silvermine Arts Center and were able to bring an amazing art program for our 4th and 5th graders. Their canvas paintings are currently displayed throughout the Center.
Last year we partnered with the Norwalk Continuing and Adult Education Department and brought ESL courses to the South Norwalk Community Center. These courses were offered in both beginner and intermediate levels for two hours on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We had great participation within the community which was a clear indication of the need for these types of programs.
In September, the Norwalk Alternative Opportunity Program (NAOP), found its home within our facility. The program services youth that have been expelled from the public-school system. It runs from Monday to Thursday, 3 hours a day, directed by Mr. Roger White.
We held two fundraisers last year, to support our Summer STEM Camp. Our annual Mother’s Day Event was held in May 2016, and raised over $1,500. In June 2016, we came together as a community and held a Fundraising Festival, in an effort to raise enough funds to sponsor children in low-income families. Both events were successful and brought South Norwalk together for a great cause.
Last summer the South Norwalk Community Center and the CT Yankee council teamed up to bring an innovative and exciting STEM opportunity to the local children of South Norwalk. STEM programming offers science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; our children received approximately 3 hours of hands on STEM instruction provided by certified teachers. 85 children engaged in over 60 experiments that were fun and exciting, creating the perfect environment for easy learning. These kids benefited greatly from this 6-week program; the hope was that they would develop a deeper interest in the sciences and math areas. Children are the future and we are definitely helping pave the way to success for our kids! We were fortunate enough to partner with Grassroots Tennis, whom provided tennis lessons on Mondays for our campers; it was honestly an amazing addition to our camp, and an invaluable opportunity for our children. We also partnered with the Norwalk Seaport Association; our campers participated in an exciting and educational trip to Sheffield Island. The Seaport Association also collaborated with us on a free community outing to Sheffield Island that many community members participated in.
Lastly, there were quite a few programs and events that took place at the South Norwalk Community Center which were so important and should be reflected on. Early in the year, we partnered with CAHS and provided a VITA program which ran twice a week for 12 weeks. Roughly 800 families processed their tax returns for free, bringing about 1.5 million in tax refunds and credits back into the local economy. Last March, we partnered with LUC and had a huge Easter Event and Egg Hunt for the local community; the outcome was simply spectacular. In May 2016, we held the National Prayers Day Event in partnership with Norwalk Prays where community leaders came together to pray for our great city. The holidays arrived and the Dumas family hosted their annual Thanksgiving Dinner, clothes drive and Christmas Event. The South Norwalk Community Center is thankful for their continued support and efforts to provide such wonderful services to our community.
2016 was an amazing year; it literally just scratched the surface of what we will be achieving in the coming years. We are looking forward to providing more programming and meeting the needs of the South Norwalk Community. Stay tuned!
“Coming together is a beginning,
Keeping together is progress,
Working together is success”
South Norwalk Community Center Board Chairman