August 2021 Newsletter: A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name

August 2021 Newsletter: A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I have learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel!

– Maya Angelou

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Charity comes in many ways; generosity and helpfulness towards the needy, benevolent goodwill toward humanity and as simple as a smile and a “Good Morning” relieving him or her of their distress.

A person once told me that the one who smiles first, wins the day! Here at TMC we meet our guests and volunteers each day with a smile. Because of your generosity and charitable acts, we were able to make people feel good during these most challenging times, it allowed us to continue Good Will, serve and provide nutritional meals, support showers for the chronically homeless and continue referrals to other Service Providers setting the groundwork towards self-sufficiency.

As we welcome the summer with some relief, we also face new challenges ahead. Here at The Thomas Merton Center, one of the challenges is to re-open our doors by the fall. Challenges include safety and sanitizing protocols, educating our guests about vaccinations and making sure that all staff, volunteers and guests remain safe.

Surely these last 18 months have stretched us in many ways to become better, as we explore new measures for preparedness and new vision for The Thomas Merton Center.

As we look towards the expansion of our Center, please stay tuned for more information to share in the upcoming months.

Until then, Peace and Blessings!

– Bill Colson, Director of The Thomas Merton Center

Eat Smart Marketplace: Grand Re-Opening
By Christina Convertito, Thomas Merton Center Summer Intern

During my first week interning at The Thomas Merton Center, I was present at the grand opening of the new Eat Smart Marketplace. The Eat Smart Marketplace is both impactful and humbling to the community that it serves. After walking in through the double doors,clients are given the opportunity to actually pick their own food, something that is rare at most food pantries.

Furthermore, the Eat Smart Marketplace is about bringing the outside food and farmer markets not only indoors, but also to a community which typically cannot afford it. Guests are able to shop for themselves, instead of typically being given a box with food for the month.

The Marketplace has two sides to it: Mimi’s Marketplace, a fresh fruit and vegetable market; and Walsh Street, a pantry style grocery store with daily necessities. Initiatives like the Eat Smart Marketplace bring back a dignified experience when it comes to grocery shopping, that many individuals who face food insecurity do not get. Both Mimi’s Marketplace and Walsh Street are named for volunteers of The Thomas Merton Center who have since passed.

To commemorate Mimi, her daughter said:
“It is about what love can do and I say that from your love and all the volunteer’s love. In a world that we live in today this is what we need, not the vision, but coming together and this is the perfect example. I admire what you do for this community, which I grew up in, which my heart and soul is still in… My mother could not have had a more wonderful tribute. To see… this beautiful man and my beautiful mother honoring this place in which love is constantly around we thank you from the Puebla family.”

While Mr. Walsh’s son talked about how volunteering helped his father:
“I’ll just say God Bless everybody down here at The Thomas Merton Center… He was just blessed to be able to come down here and do such meaningful work with such lovely people. Thank you for that.”

The Eat Smart Marketplace captures the vision of The Thomas Merton Center; it ensures that every guest’s experience is dignified and humbling, while simultaneously honoring and admiring the work of the volunteers.

Medical Mission at The Thomas Merton Center

Hospitals can be intimidating and doctor’s visits are easy to lose track of but bringing the Hartford Healthcare experts to the Thomas Merton Center made it easy and accessible. Our Medical Mission provided guests access to care regardless of their circumstances by bringing doctors into our center. This was the first time since the pandemic that we opened our doors to the public and operated on a Saturday to ensure that our guests could make it.Partnering with Hartford Healthcare brought a new level of care to the Thomas Merton Center community; we couldn’t have done it without them.

“We were honored to partner with the Thomas Merton Center to provide the St. Vincent’s Medical Mission, ensuring that guests of the Merton Center had access to medical exams,prescriptions, behavioral health services and other important resources. It is our privilege to serve the community, and we were so pleased to continue our Medical Mission tradition with support and engagement from the team at the Merton Center.”
– Dianne Auger, Regional Vice President

After checking in, patients had their vitals and blood sugar checked before heading to areas of care they needed. From general practitioners and specialty care to prescriptions and outreach teams, the Mission provided comprehensive assessment, care, and referrals for physical and mental health. Once they were seen by physicians, guests were offered complimentary blood pressure cuffs, prescription reading glasses, and dental health packs.Like any other day at the Thomas Merton Center, breakfast and lunch were offered but by collaborating with Hartford Healthcare, we offered so much more.

A Day in the Life of The Thomas Merton Center

Celebrities came together to meet the needs of the hungry in Bridgeport where “everybody knows your name”

A video created and hosted by Bridgeport native John Ratzenberger, coming to us from Pixar Studios in California, follows a typical day in the life of TMC dealing with the complex issues of COVID while continuing to provide guests food and groceries. If you missed the video, it is available on our website

Another significant contributor is Mark Kelly of Easton, CT, President of Safety Marking, Inc. Safety Marking is a major sponsor for the video, and went above and beyond to help this significant effort. Special thanks go out to the members of the Celebrity committee, Co-Chairs, Marianne Kahn and Michelle Babyak and members Jack Edwards, Mark Kelly, Edna Borchetta, Mary Ann O’Connor and Louise Gidez for stewarding this effort start to finish.

We were pleased to have two other “Celebrities” – two of our guests who were spotlighted in the video:
Kenneth Graham, a former guest, now gainfully employed and coming into TMC to volunteer his time in the kitchen preparing meals. “I found the staff would listen… I feel like I should give back because they were here for me,” states Kenneth.
Yashira Cruz, who with her family of 4, not only utilizes the food panty, but also helps out in the garden. As Yashira stated, “It is important to have these resources because without them I wouldn’t have… I’m trying not to cry… I don’t have family here, so to me they are my family and when I need help, they’re there.”

Event Sponsored by Mark Kelly, Safety Marking, Inc.

Mark Kelly of Easton, CT is the Founder and President of Safety Marking, Inc. Mark Kelly recognizes how important it is to give back to the local community and has made a lifelong commitment to providing assistance to local neighbors in need.

Mark Kelly has also been a member of The Thomas Merton Center Advisory Board in Bridgeport, CT for over 20 years. He is committed to the very important work they do; providing safety and hope to those who need it most.

Mark Kelly started Safety Marking Inc., a family owned striping business, in 1973 in Bridgeport, CT. Through hard work and perseverance, the company has become a pavement marking leader, providing expert services in New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. As a full-service highway and roadway marking company Safety Marking consistently completes jobs, large and small, across the northeastern United States providing excellence in every aspect of pavement marking.

Our Community

There’s a buzz in the air when you walk into the Thomas Merton Center. Dishes clatter, wheels rumble, and keys jangle as the people here turn time and care into meals and opportunities. Our staff, interns, and volunteers all work in tandem to serve our guests and offer a hand up. The folks that come to TMC greet us with a smile and leave with a “God bless” as we offer them hot meals on cool mornings and cool water on hot days. The 120 or so meals we serve twice a day are always met with heartfelt appreciation and a glimmer of hope.

Serving our guests meals is not just about handing out food but about building relationships with our guests. We work hard to connect with our guests and direct them to the services and programs they need. Working in conjunction with St. Vincent’s Hospital, we held a medical mission this
past June to meet the immediate healthcare needs of our community. The mission offered visits with general practitioners, specialists, and follow-up care.

Our program’s Director, Bill Colson, and Operations Coordinator, Sabine Kuczo, empower us to take on challenges as they arise and help our guests and are quick to teach us what we need to best help our guests. Every day we take on projects to enhance our guests’ experience here and currently
we’re working to reopen safely after the pandemic. The Thomas Merton Center isn’t just a charity or a day shelter, it’s our community center.

– Bartosz Szczypiorski, Summer Intern at The Thomas Merton Center

Thomas Merton Center Advisory Board Members:
Louise Gidez, Chair
Marianne Kahn, Co-Chair
Michelle Babyak
David Blagys
Edna Borchetta
Sheila Clancy
Jack Edwards
Tom Gaudett
Guy Hatfield
Mark Kelly
George Logan
Alberto Martins
Mary Ann O’Connor
William Petroccio

Thomas Merton Center Staff:
Bill Colson – Director
Sabine Kuczo – Operations Coordinator
Daisy Rodriguez – Pantry Coordinator
Kathleen Pierce – Development Officer
Felisha Curtin – Case Manager/Coordinator
Lia Wijaya – Office Assistant
Simaa Baker – Case Manager
Darren Colson – Pantry Assistant
Johnathan Garcia – Maintenance
Fathi Zermane – Safety Coordinator

Title V Staff:
Joe Parker
William Vargas
Ron Williams

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