BRANFORD, CT - As the coronavirus swept into the state, the strains in Branford were everywhere. At Connecticut Hospice, frontline health workers needed protective equipment. The Branford Food Pantry was having trouble sourcing fresh food. Restaurants and small businesses across town were suffering due to closures, and the ranks of the unemployed swelled.

Faced with this panoply of challenges, the Branford Rotary Club responded in force. The Club spent $5,000 to buy medical gowns for Hospice. For the Food Pantry, Rotary members sourced, bought, and delivered a truckload of fresh produce. As the needs in town grew, Rotary launched the ambitious HELP OUT – TAKE OUT program, which supports both local restaurants and those who’ve lost work due to the pandemic. And in August, Rotary held its first annual BRAFFLE - Branford Rotary's Outrageous Restaurant Raffle - which alone raised $40,000 for the community.

In all, Branford Rotary has so far responded to the crisis with $86,000 in aid, an unprecedented effort for the service group.

“What Rotary has done for Branford has been amazing,” said John Sousoulas, owner of the Parthenon Diner Restaurant, one of the 34 family-owned restaurants involved in HELP OUT – TAKE OUT and the first annual BRAFFLE. “This is a group of volunteers, remember. That they could organize the way they do, and help the way they do, is above and beyond.”

“Branford Rotary’s compassion, and strong commitment to take action, define the character of the organization,” said Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove. “The time, effort, and financial support Rotary provides improves our quality of life and builds a greater sense of community pride.”

Included in that response: $2,000 to the Women & Family Life Center in Guilford, which has become a frontline resource as the community continues to battle the pandemic; and $1,000 to Farrell House, which provides transitional housing for Branford’s homeless, who have been severely affected by COVID-19. And Rotary also partnered with the Soundview Family YMCA and the BC2 Sports & Fitness Complex for ‘Operation Compassion,’ which provides free grocery delivery to seniors, first responders, medical professionals and those with underlying conditions.

“Rotarians pride themselves on being ‘People of Action,’ and Branford Rotary has certainly earned that title during this crisis,” said Branford Rotary President Gary Gambardella. “And Rotary is not done. More help is on the way to those who need it.”

As we head into the fall, the needs certainly will continue, and residents can help by supporting local restaurants and small businesses, and each other.

People who live or work in Branford are also encouraged to join Branford Rotary and its efforts to improve lives in Branford, across the shoreline, and around the world. 

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Want to help the community? Come to one of our Tuesday meetings.

  • The first Tuesday of every month, dinner at Home Restaurant, 1114 Main St., 5:30 pm
  • All other Tuesdays, breakfast at the Parthenon Dinner, 324 E. Main St., 7:30 am.
All are welcome!

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