NORWALK — More than 700 turkeys and 12,000 pounds of produce were distributed in Norwalk and Darien on Wednesday through Person-to-Person, a community-supported nonprofit that provides basic emergency assistance to low-income individuals and families in lower Fairfield County.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy joined volunteers at the Norwalk site that morning, handing out turkeys to those who stopped by, as Mayor Harry Rilling and state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, distributed bags of produce at the table beside him.
“Murphy gave me my turkey!” one man said excitedly. “Murphy, you’re doing a good job.”
Murphy felt it was important to help distribute Thanksgiving meals with Person-to-Person for a closer look at the growing issue of food insecurity in Connecticut and to help remove the stigma toward people who access food banks and other resources.
“The need for nutrition services is increasing and I’m really fearful about some of the giant budget cuts in Washington that would end up meaning that food pantries like this having even less food to give out,” Murphy said. “So it’s important for me to bring back these very personal stories about how much need still exists.”
The need for food and other basic services in the area has certainly grown, said Ceci Maher, who has been the executive director of Person-to-Person for 12 years. While financial situations for many have improved since the recession, those living off of lower incomes have not fared as well in lower Fairfield County, she explained.
“It’s a very expensive community to live in, which means the working poor — who we are primarily helping, who are working several jobs — are not able to make ends meet,” Maher said. “So this makes a difference for their families. Being able to give them food and stretch budgets is tremendously helpful to families.”
As of now, Person-to-Person provides 750,000 meals throughout the year, serving more than 10,000 people in Norwalk, Wilton, Weston, Westport, New Canaan, Darien and Stamford. The nonprofit also provides financial assistance for emergencies, college scholarships and camperships during the summer.
“We are here to help to create more stable communities,” Maher said. “Over time, a number of agencies that give out financial assistance have diminished. So we’re kind of the last agency standing that meets the needs of the community,” Maher said.
The Thanksgiving event Wednesday was one example Person-to-Person does exactly that, Rilling said.
“Person-to-Person helps so many people in the city and around the area. Sometimes we take for granted the things we have. We don’t realize there are people who don’t have the abundance that we enjoy,” Rilling said. “So having people being able to come to get food to feed their families is just a wonderful program, and we’re really proud to support to Person-to-Person in any way that we possibly can.”
Duff agreed, calling Person-to-Person one of the finest nonprofits in the area.
“They are the safety net of our city and really the area, and the work that they do needs to be supported,” Duff said.