Taking on the Tough Issues



Photograph by Stefanie Timmermann

It seemed all of Fairfield County wanted to do something—anything, really—when tragedy struck Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School last December. But what would have a lasting, meaningful impact after the news trucks took down their satellite antennas?

Juanita James, executive director of the Fairfield County Community Foundation (FCCF), contemplated that question, thinking, as she often does, about the big picture. First things first: There were victims’ families, some of whom solicited the foundation’s staff for advice on enduring philanthropic memorials; things that would do good works for the long haul. For example, the family of art-loving six-year-old Grace McDonnell established a fund in her name, while school psychologist Mary Sherlach’s survivors directed memorial gifts to an established FCCF health and wellness fund.

And then there were the complex, pervasive questions raised about mental health after the senselessly brutal shooting of twenty-six children and educators by an obviously troubled gunman. “It’s a systematic and long-term problem that extends far beyond Newtown,” says Juanita. So, the FCCF organized a January symposium that brought Connecticut legislators and representatives of key nonprofits with mental health expertise to the table to brainstorm on these prescient topics. “These are big questions about what happens in the long-term if we ignore these issues. Our role is to be a convener, to start the conversation,” she explains.

This focused approach to problem-solving is typical of the foundation’s philanthropic style. FCCF has been best known in its twenty-one-year history for shepherding an endowment of approximately $140 million to support a network of carefully screened Fairfield County nonprofits. Since Juanita assumed the FCCF’s leadership in October 2011, there’s been a parallel emphasis on addressing specific regional needs; things such as affordable housing, long-term unemployment and the educational achievement gap. While advancing philanthropy is still paramount, she explains, “Connecticut is an unusual state in that we don’t have a county government. So we’re in a unique position of seeing the big picture and then….being the catalyst for change.”

To that end, the Norwalk-based foundation is increasingly committed to taking on seemingly unwieldy regional problems and finding substantive ways to make a difference.

Juanita likes to break dilemmas down into manageable parts. Take education. It is a prime example of the FCCF’s knack for addressing a need in a way that achieves quantifiable results. Through its research, FCCF discerned there was a potentially disastrous shortage of qualified educators positioned to assume principals’ roles at schools in Bridgeport, Norwalk, Stamford and Danbury; urban centers striving to attain achievement parity with their more affluent, suburban neighbors. It was estimated that ninety-two of those cities’ principals were poised to retire by 2012. “If you don’t have great leaders, how can you have great schools?” Juanita asks. “We decided one way to tackle the problem was from the top down.”

The FCCF convened a yearlong Urban School Leaders Fellowship, which mentored sixty-three up-and-coming educators, with an emphasis on enhancing their abilities as dynamic urban school leaders. An exciting postscript was Juanita’s recent attendance at the Greenwich-based Lone Pine Foundation’s ceremony honoring three urban Fairfield County public schools for significant achievement advances. On the staff of one of those honored schools (Stamford’s Springdale Elementary) was an assistant principal mentored through FCCF’s fellowship project. “But what’s even more exciting is to think of the leaders who are poised to become principals when there’s a need,” Juanita says. As always, her eyes are fixed on the big picture.

www.fccfoundation.org

 

Greenwich Agenda

  • The Many Faces of Multi Media

    2014.09.20
     @ Meli-Melo of Greenwich

    Dr. Julia Trebing, Director Creative Therapies in Stamford, CT exhibits her paintings at Meli-Melo Creperie & Juice Bar  during Sept...

  • YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week

    2014.10.18
     @ YMCA of Greenwich

    YMCA of Greenwich Harvest Art Week October 18 - 26, 2014 Join us for a week-long celebration of local art! Showcasing established and emerging...

  • Exhibit Ira BARKOFF

    2014.10.11
     @ Canfin Gallery

    “The beauty of the physical world becomes a metaphor for the capacity of the spirit to reveal itself". Ira Barkoff Evocation of...

  • Nigh Season: New Paintings By David Konigsberg

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM  Public Invited   NIGH...

  • Undulate: Paintings By Julie Gross and Margaret Neill

    2014.09.13
     @ Kenise Barnes Fine Art

    GALLERY II Dates: September 13 – October 31, 2014 Opening Reception: September 13, 6 – 8:30 PM Public Invited...

  • Oktoberfest 2014 Greenwich United Way

    2014.10.24
     @ Loading Dock

    Greenwich United Way’s sixth annual “Oktoberfest” fundraiser is set for Friday, October 24 at Stamford’s Loading...

  • Parties at the JCC Center

    2014.09.02
     @ Stamford JCC

    A place to celebrate birthdays and special occasions. Be a guest at your own party! The JCC offers a wonderful space for you and your guests to...

  • SPLURGE Matches Scarf Donations for Cancer Patients

    2014.10.01
     @ SPLURGE

    SPLURGE and the Cancer Institute at Greenwich Hospital are partnering to bring comfort and encouragement to cancer patients.  From October...

  • IMAGINE CANDY- SWEET TASTINGS!!!

    2014.10.24
     @ Imagine Candy

    Imagine Candy located in Scarsdale Village- Winner of 2014 Best West of Westchester by Westchester Magazine- holds a Belgian Chocolate and Candy...

  • Flower Power

    2014.10.08
     @ SM Home Gallery

    SM Home Gallery show featuring two Greenwich based artists: Margaret Bragg and Penny Putnam. The art show runs thorough November 22nd....

  • The Food Network Open Casting Call for Home Cooks

    2014.10.25
     @ My Cooking Party

    FOOD NETWORK’S TOP CELEBRITY CHEFS ARE SCOURING THE NATION IN SEARCH OF AMAZING HOME COOKS! You’ve watched them on TV, bought their...

  • Greenwich Hospital Gala

    2014.10.25
     @ Greenwich Country Club

    It will be a Gala worthy of a doge when retiring Greenwich Hospital president and CEO, Frank A. Corvino, will be presented with the...

  • The Wilton Fall Antiques Market

    2014.10.26
     @ Wilton High School Field House

    Barnstar Productions and the Wilton Historical Society will present the Wilton Antiques Market. More than 80 exhibitors are expected to...

  • Trunk-or-Treat For UNICEF

    2014.10.26
     @ Island Beach Parking Lot

    U.S Fund for UNICEF Greenwich Committee invites you to the 1st annual Trunk-or-Treat for UNICEF Join friends and neighbors for an afternoon of...

  • La Soirée d’ Automne at Bistro Versailles

    2014.10.27
     @ Bistro Versailles and Patisserie

    Wine dinners at Bistro Versailles are entertaining social events held on a regular basis. Socialize with friends and mingle with other attendees...

  • Explore the Bruce Museum

    2014.10.28
     @ Stamford JCC

    Join us at the Bruce Museum for a private tour of the inaugural showing in the U.S. of “Northern Baroque Splendor: The Hohenbuchau Collection...

  • Educational Seminar - Effective Resume Writing & Interviewing Skills

    2014.10.29
     @ Greenwich Library

    Are you sure you are putting your best foot forward in your job hunt?  What will make employers pick your resume and ask you for an interview?...

  • Meet Bestselling Author Ayelet Waldman

    2014.10.30
     @ Organic Planet

    On October 30 at 10am, JCC Greenwich will present New York Times bestselling author Ayelet Waldman, who will discuss her latest novel Love and...

  • Flinn Gallery Art Opening

    2014.10.30
     @ Flinn Gallery 2nd floor

    FLINN GALLERY Opening Reception 'IN FOCUS' Thursday October 30, 6 - 8pm Seven artists share their visions - Carolyn Conrad,...

  • Laurel House Family Seminar Series

    2014.09.18
     @ Laurel House

    Thursday evenings, September 18, October 2, 16, 30, 6:30-8:00 pm Join us Thursday evenings for this four part Family Seminar Series as...


Show More...

Most Popular Articles

  1. Henry & Me
    Greenwich
  2. B2B Blast Off Event
    Greenwich
  3. Joie Shopping Event
    Joie Greenwich
  4. Go For Pink
    Greenwich Avenue
  5. GRTA Hunt Ball Patron Party
    Conyers Farms