News

Paying It Forward September 9th, 2019

Sabine Kuczo with George Alberto as he donates over 160 boxes of cereal to the Thomas Merton Center.

George Alberto has been involved in his local community and been doing acts of charity for as long as he can remember. As a parishioner of Saint Patrick’s Parish in Bridgeport and a member of the Knights of Columbus for Council 4716, volunteering has been part of his weekly life especially since one of the directives of the Knights is to complete acts of charity.

He first started to assist the staff at the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport 15 years ago. Fellow parishioners of Saint Patrick’s Church, Larry and Sharon Jones, invited him to serve lunch with them at the Merton Center and George has continued to do so ever since. The group from Saint Patrick’s serves lunch at Merton the last Friday of every month. The Knights’ council that he serves on has also completed many works of charity with Merton, including food drives for the soup kitchen, preparing thanksgiving baskets, and simply making monetary donations.

These acts of charity are normal for George, who says, “I personally believe in paying it forward and assisting those in need. I also work with other local charities and institutions such as the Sisters of Charity, the Kennedy Center, Home of the Brave and Saint Catherine’s Academy.”

The volunteers from Realty One Group Connect in Monroe.

George has such strong beliefs about paying it forward that he introduced his co-workers at Realty One Group Connect in Monroe to the Thomas Merton Center. In May 2019, a team from the office lead by owners/brokers Chris Bacoulis and John McBride helped plan and plant a vegetable garden. They also spent time organizing clothes and toiletries. In July, George informed his colleagues that Merton was in need of breakfast cereal. In just under a month and with help from outside businesses such as Commerce Park Childrens’ Dentistry and Orthodontics, the group collected and delivered over 160 boxes of cereal.

The Thomas Merton Center is committed to providing a loving, safe and hope-filled community atmosphere, which responds to the needs of its guests. Through its Food Pantry, Merton provides close to 1,000 families with 10 days of food, which amounts to 30 meals once per month. The House of Hospitality serves breakfast and lunch daily to approximately 300 men, women and children. None of this would be possible without volunteers like George and the people from Realty One Group.

If you would like more information on how you could help the Thomas Merton Center, contact Sabine Kuczo at [email protected] or visit the Thomas Merton webpage at https://www.themertoncenter.org/.

Written by Amy Zajac

Adler to Lead the Thomas Merton Center August 29th, 2019

Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities proudly announces the appointment of Craig Adler as the new Director for the Thomas Merton Center. “Craig is a resident of Westport and will be joining the agency in early September. He comes with very impressive background including extensive financial and non-profit experience.”

Most recently, he has been the Fundraising Director for the Norwalk Housing Authority Scholarship Foundation where he grew it from a breakeven financial position to having an 18 month surplus in one year and initiated a planned giving program. Adler also has experience with the National MS Foundation, the Connecticut Food Bank, the House of Possibilities in Boston, the Westport Sunrise Rotary and many other non-profit agencies.

Adler attended the Indiana University Lily School of Fundraising in 2018 and was a Fellow at the University of Connecticut Nonprofit Leadership Program.  His finance career included positions at Greenwich Associates, C3 Capital LLC/WBB Securities, First Creek Capital in Westport, Credit Suisse, and Daiwa Securities. He also speaks Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Catholic Charities is blessed to add Craig Adler to its team and feels he will be an asset to the Thomas Merton Center. The Thomas Merton Center was founded in 1974 by a group of concerned individuals who saw a need for services to the economically disadvantaged people in the city of Bridgeport. As the times have changed and the needs of the people we serve have changed we have developed programs that address issues such as housing, nutritional needs, healthcare needs, parenting issues and youth at risk. Merton provides breakfast, lunch and day shelter to approximately 260 people each day Monday through Saturday. We serve about 85,000 meals a year.

Written by Amy Zajac

Reducing Hunger Through Education July 24th, 2019

BRIDGEPORT—Reducing hunger and providing nutrition to those in need is central to Catholic Charities’ mission. As the largest social service agency in the diocese, their soup kitchens serve those most in need, as Fairfield County ranks first nationally in income inequality when compared to the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas and where the cost of living is high.

Two of the agency’s largest initiatives are The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and New Covenant Center in Stamford. The soup kitchen at the Thomas Merton Center offers breakfast, lunch and a day shelter to about 300 people Monday through Saturday. Its Eat Smart Marketplace Food Pantry serves over 600 families from inner-city Bridgeport monthly. New Covenant Center operates the only soup kitchen in Stamford, open every day of the year and the city’s largest food pantry. The soup kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to approximately 350 daily. The food pantry serves over 525 households monthly. Last year, New Covenant Center served 3,600 unduplicated individuals and over 600,000 meals. There is an urgent need for these programs.

Recently, both programs were beneficiaries of a grant through Bank of America to introduce a food education initiative at their sites—the Food Insecurity Education Program. “As the relationships among diet, health and disease prevention have become clearer, nutrition education and the promotion of healthy eating behaviors and lifestyles continue to receive increased attention,” says Bill Colson, operations manager at the Thomas Merton Center. New Covenant Center Executive Director John Gutman states, “Many factors influence behavior and successful nutrition education uses a systematic approach and strategies that include a variety of activities to help make behavior changes. Effective nutrition education and promotion includes multiple components such as skill-building and integrated initiatives to build personal and community support. It helps consumers select and consume healthy and enjoyable foods by improving awareness and motivation.”

It is with this understanding that the Thomas Merton Center and New Covenant Center initiated the Food Insecurity Education Program (FIEP) to meet the nutritional awareness needs of their respective communities. This program focuses primarily on the school-age population and seeks guidance and development from local dieticians or nutritionists based out of local colleges such as Sacred Heart University, Fairfield U or the University of Bridgeport, with other options including professionals from the local public school systems, or local chefs or culinary teachers/students. The programs can also access additional partners to including secure food providers such as CT Food Bank, Food Rescue, Trader Joe’s, Reservoir Community Farm, Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County and Fairgate Farm. In addition to young families of both the Thomas Merton Center and New Covenant Center, the target audience is drawn from local parishes, schools and community youth groups, as well as students currently involved in volunteer opportunities at each site. Programming is based on monthly workshops or clinics designed to educate using both hands-on, and presentational, formats involving such topics as: learning the language of the kitchen, touring a food provider facility, preparing healthy and nutritious meals, and planning, planting and harvesting a working outdoor garden.

Each program worked separately at their individual sites during the grant cycle with their own cohort groups following the Food Insecurity Education Program. They prepared sustainable gardens, learned about healthy and nutritious meals, worked in the gardens and harvested vegetables. The groups ended the grant cycle preparing a healthy and nutritious dish from the vegetables the harvested and shared the meal during a celebration. Catholic Charities is looking forward to continuing its relationship with Bank of America and growing this program at both the Thomas Merton Center and New Covenant Center.

Written by Amy Zajac as seen on the Fairfield County Catholic website.

Thomas Merton Center’s 25th Annual Celebrity Breakfast April 3rd, 2019

BRIDGEPORT—Located in a former church on Madison Avenue in Bridgeport, just a few blocks from St. Augustine Cathedral, you will find a fully functioning soup kitchen that has been feeding the hungry and the homeless Monday through Saturday for the past 45 years. On May 22, 2019, The Thomas Merton Center will host its 25th Annual Celebrity Breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. This event has been a longtime staple to the program and has featured such “celebrity” guests as Paul Miller, Bob Wright and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. Anticipating the excitement surrounding the Silver Anniversary of the event, the Thomas Merton Center Board decided to feature two guest speakers this year—Jim Koplik and Howard Saffan.

Jim Koplik is currently the President of Live Nation Connecticut and a concert promoter who produces over 150 shows a year. Some of his prior productions include shows by The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, REO Speedwagon, Madonna, Billy Joel, and Elton John. Howard Saffan is a developer and CEO of Amphitheater, LLC. Saffan is a co-owner of Sports Center of Connecticut and The Rinks at Shelton in Shelton, CT. He is also the former President of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.

The Thomas Merton Center’s mission is to provide a loving, safe and hope-filled community atmosphere, which responds to the needs of its guests. The Thomas Merton Center helps those who cannot help themselves. Guests come to the program because of their invisibility to other social services. In addition to its soup kitchen which provides both breakfast and lunch to approximately 350 people per day, the services provided by The Thomas Merton Center include: a food pantry, support groups, case management, educational assistance, a shower program, health services, and a mail program.

According to Al Barber, President of Catholic Charities, “Thomas Merton said it best, ‘We do not exist for ourselves.’ Those words reflect the efforts, energy and contributions that support The Thomas Merton Center. The 25th Annual Celebrity Breakfast significantly supports the programs annual budget to provide meals and services to the most vulnerable population in Bridgeport.”

To register for the event or sponsor a table, please visit the event webpage at www.themertoncenter.org/events. For more information, contact Sabine Kuczo at [email protected] or 203.367.9036 ext. 15.

Click here for a pdf of a flyer for the event.

Written by Amy Zajac
As seen on the Fairfield County Catholic Website

Macy’s in Trumbull Supports Thomas Merton Center – Event Extended March 18th, 2019
Macy’s Trumbull is Supporting The Thomas Merton Center! Shop at Macy’s in the Westfield Trumbull Mall through April 9th. Shop and round up your purchase to the nearest dollar.
All proceeds will go to the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport to feed the hungry in our community.
Give to Us Through Catholic Charities on Fairfield Giving Day! February 27th, 2019

Tomorrow is the day to GIVE!

Giving Day is an exciting 24-hour online fundraising event to support nonprofit organizations across Fairfield County.

Sponsored by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and Bank of America, Giving Day 2019 kicks off  at the stroke of midnight. For the next 24 hours on that day, you can donate online as many times as you like to your favorite nonprofit, which we hope is Catholic Charities!

The money you donate will be used across all of our programs: New Covenant Center, Thomas Merton Center, Morning Glory Breakfast Program, Senior Nutrition Program, Room to Grow Preschool, Behavioral Health, Immigration Services and the Housing/Homeless Outreach Program. BUT, if you want your money to be designated to THE THOMAS MERTON CENTER on Giving Day you can!!! Simply add a NOTE that the donation is “FOR THE THOMAS MERTON CENTER”. Simply click here to go to our personal online donation page.

This year, our goal is $20,000. Can you help us get there?

Order of Malta are TMC Regulars February 21st, 2019

Volunteers from the Order of Malta with Sister Mandy.

Every 3rd Saturday a community of volunteers from the Order of Malta prepares and serves a hot, hearty breakfast to guests at Thomas Merton Center.  A lay religious Order of the Roman Catholic Church, the Order of Malta is dedicated to serving the sick and the poor.

The effort typically begins on Friday when members of the team stock the kitchen with the ingredients for a breakfast feast. Early on Saturday 12-15 volunteers arrive to prepare the popular menu of scrambled eggs with cheese, kielbasa, pancakes, fruit and juice.  Approximately 120 meals are served monthly amidst smiles and banter.  To top things off, there is always a call for “seconds!”


A Donation to Catholic Charities on Giving Day Means Giving to Thomas Merton Center February 8th, 2019

Let’s get ready to GIVE where we LIVE!

Giving Day is an exciting 24-hour online fundraising event to support nonprofit organizations across Fairfield County.

Sponsored by Fairfield County’s Community Foundation and Bank of America, Giving Day 2019 kicks off three weeks from today on Thursday February 28 at the stroke of midnight. For the next 24 hours on that day, you can donate online as many times as you like to your favorite nonprofit, which we hope is Catholic Charities!

The money you donate will be used across all of our programs: New Covenant Center, Thomas Merton Center, Morning Glory Breakfast Program, Senior Nutrition Program, Room to Grow Preschool, Behavioral Health, Immigration Services and the Housing/Homeless Outreach Program. BUT, if you want your money to be designated to Thomas Merton Center on Giving Day, simply add a NOTE that the donation is “FOR THOMAS MERTON CENTER”.

This year, our goal is $20,000. Can you help us get there?