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Article Published December 3, 2020

Over $202,000 in Local COVID-19 Response Distributed by Branford Community Foundation

By Pam Johnson/

Back in January, non-profit Branford Community Foundation (BCF) was hoping to mark its 40th anniversary by raising awareness and support for its mission of funding community causes backed by the generosity of a caring community.

Perhaps there is no greater testament to the work of BCF, and this community, than what happened next. In March, as the pandemic began impacting the lives and livelihoods of many, BCF formed a COVID-19 Response Fund, reached out to the community for help, and donations came rolling in. By the time the final funds were dispersed in late November, the results were stunning, reports BCF Executive Director Liza Petra.

"Our goal was to raise $20,000 for emergency financial assistance for families. We ended up raising over $202,000," said Petra.

The fundraising effort surpassed its initial goal quickly, raising over $128,600 in a month's time, with help from a $25,000 donation from Guilford Savings Bank and an individual donation of $50,000 made by anonymous donor.  In April, in order to continue to respond to needs being identified by local service providers, BCF initiated the fund's "Branford Has Heart" campaign, offering lawn signs bearing that message to donors. The campaign took off.

"It was really clear that we had a hit a nerve," said Petra. "Folks were really looking towards ways to support the community; and recognized that the foundation, as an organization that exists to respond to emergent needs, was a good resource and tool for that."

For Petra, the small BCF staff and the all-volunteer members of the BCF board, led by chair Heather Hackley, the astonishing results of the COVID-19 Response Fund boils down to the community, as individuals, organizations and businesses, stepping up to help their neighbors in an unprecedented time of need.

"The Branford Community Foundation initiated this fund in March once we realized the impact that COVID was going to have on our neighbors," said Petra.  "The message, from reviewing it, is just how incredibly generous the Branford community is when they realize their neighbors are in need. It was inspirational and awesome to see the incredible response to our fundraising efforts. It was just above and beyond what anyone imagined. When a Branford resident is in need, the community responds."

BCF started up the fund March 19 with the goal of quickly raising and infusing $20,000, dispersed as emergency financial assistance grants through a partnership formed with non-profit Women & Family Life Center (WFLC). Funds were distributed almost as quickly as they were raised. Between March and the final month of the program (November, 2020), the fund received a total of 262 donations which raised $202,456.03. As of Nov. 24, $202,235 of the money had been distributed.

The $202,235 was dispensed through 31 individual grants provided between April and November. Of the $202,235 distributed, 30 percent provided emergency financial assistance to families through BCF's partnership with WFLC; 27 percent was given for basic needs (food, shelter); 12 percent helped bolster social services programs, 10 percent helped support childcare services so parents could go back to work and children could have developmentally appropriate interaction in a safe space; 10 percent assisted health and mental health service programs, 7 percent helped to provide local organizations in need with personal protective equipment (PPE) early in the pandemic, and 4 percent helped to support operating costs for organizations experiencing an inability to fundraise due to the impacts of COVID-19.

"While $45,000 of those funds went directly to emergency financial assistance, thanks to the community's generosity, we were also able to provide grants for PPEs, operating support, basic needs like food and shelter, support for seniors, diapers [and more] to a number of other nonprofit organizations serving Branford citizens," said Petra.

Looking back, Petra said the profound success of the BCF COVID-19 Response Fund illustrates the mission of BCF, founded in 1980.

"Our mission is connecting people who care with the causes that matter, and this is just the most profound example of that," said Petra.

To learn more about Branford Community Foundation and donation opportunities, visit