ACT celebrates 30 years of community service

Richard Blumenthal speaks in Derby on Saturday/Rebecca Newman - Creedible.comDERBY – Susan Agamy, executive director of Area Congregations Together, hopes that one day the Lower Naugatuck Valley won’t need a homeless shelter and a food bank. But after the economy tumbled in 2008, she learned that her organization is needed now more than ever.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal emphasized that fact on Saturday during the organization’s 30th anniversary celebration at Grassy Hill Lodge in Derby. He said that over the past year, countless people have lost their jobs, have had their pay reduced or have gotten sick and are without health insurance, making organizations like ACT crucial to Connecticut.

“I don’t have to tell you how important it is,” he said, about the services ACT provides. “It’s remarkable and is really very invaluable.”

In 2009 the organization, which manages the Valley Food Bank Network, provided 104,000 meals to hungry residents. That’s a 41 percent increase from the year before.

“Connecticut’s one of the wealthiest states,” Agamy said, “but we have some of the fewest resources for the poor.”

ACT operates the only homeless shelter in the valley and is one of the only shelters in Connecticut that welcomes families with children into its facility. In 2009 the shelter, called the Spooner House, housed a total of 248 people, nearly 13 percent more than it housed in 2008.A silent auction is held to raise money for ACT/Rebecca Newman - Creedible.com

Clergy and laity originally established the organization in 1979 to provide transportation to the elderly for medical purposes, and to provide meals for those unable to cook for themselves. Agamy explained that over the past three decades ACT has adapted its services to the needs of the community.

Today dozens of businesses and faith communities sponsor the program, including Christians, Jews, Hindus and Circle of the Sacred Well, a Wiccan group.

“It really is a community effort,” Algamy said.

On Saturday ACT honored six of its supporters: Griffin Hospital, Naugatuck Valley Savings & Loan, Win Oppel, Pitney Bowes, Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and Trinity Episcopal Church.

The Rev. Lucille Fritz, of Huntington Congregational Church, has been involved with ACT since 1998. At Christmas, her church hosted a holiday party for those living in the shelter and each month her congregation sponsors a meal for the residents.

She said ACT is worth supporting because it provides life skills training to residents.

“They don’t just give them a bed, they teach them how to survive,” she said.

ACT currently needs canned goods, salt, sugar, laundry detergent, diapers and numerous other supplies. See ACT’s complete wish list on its website, where you can also make a financial contribution.

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