Update Saturday, May 10, with Mayor Rilling’s response about the cancelled NEON summer camp.
NORWALK, Conn. – Almost no one was home Thursday at Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON), in stark contrast to the happy sound of children downstairs at the South Norwalk Community Center.
A NEON employee who declined to give her name said Friday is her last day on the job, after seven years. NEON is declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy, she said. Downstairs, three women said they didn’t know what they would do with their children this summer as they had been depending on NEON’s summer camp, and no one had yet offered them an alternative.
Mayor Harry Rilling said the camp problem is being addressed.
Rilling, responding Friday afternoon by email, said he is working on finding an alternative camp.
“We are currently being approached by several organizations interested in running a summer camp,” he said. “I am working with the Finance Department to determine what legislative action would be required to reallocate the funds. It is important we find the right program in order to ensure the summer camp is run properly and the children are not left without.”
A NEON employee said they would get their money back – in cash – and waved a 2-inch thick stack of manila envelopes, which he said was their payments that would be given to them soon. One of the mothers appreciated that, saying that last year she had been given a money order as a refund, which her bank would not cash. She was out $50, she said. Rilling confirmed NEON was refunding the deposits.
The Rev. Tommie Jackson, named as NEON transitional leader in October, has not responded to recent emails from NancyOnNorwalk inquiring about the status of the agency. Neither has board Chairman Mike Berkoff. Sources told NancyOnNorwalk earlier this month that Berkoff told people at a non-NEON event that the agency would declare Chapter 7 on May 5. Reports now peg the filing to early next week.
The seven-year NEON veteran said Jackson informed them last week that NEON was taking the bankruptcy route that involves closing and liquidating its assets, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. She didn’t know when that would be.
“We don’t know anything other than what we read in the paper,” she said.
She was one of three employees in NEON’s second floor space at 98 South Main St. Offices were empty, except for desks that were obviously not being used. The entire thing was sad and depressing, she said.
“It’s sad on all levels,” she said. “The clients are left up in the air.”
NEON announced in January that it was considering bankruptcy. Yet the agency in March advertised a summer camp for 5- to-13-year-olds that would run June 30 through Aug. 8 at a cost of $200 for a family’s first child and $100 for each additional child.
Carolina Vival signed up her 10-year-old and 7-year-old children.
“I don’t know what I am going to do with the kids,” she said. “… I’m sad now. I won’t be able to work. My salary is not big.”
Giving all of her salary to a baby sitter doesn’t make sense, she said, explaining that she works for a dry cleaner.
Andrea Lopez, who said she makes curtains, agreed. She had looked around and found summer camps that cost hundreds of dollars for just one week, she said, which isn’t the “something affordable” that she needs.