News

The Thomas Merton Center Event Raises Money to meet the needs of the hungry in Bridgeport June 18th, 2021

BRIDGEPORT – The Thomas Merton Center recently wrapped up its spring virtual fundraiser – A Day in the Life of The Thomas Merton Center. Over $310,000 was raised with money still coming in. This event was in lieu of the center’s usual in-person Celebrity Breakfast but still brought out the Celebrities.

Hosted by Bridgeport native John Ratzenberger providing a voice over from Pixar Studios in California, the event does just what its title indicates. It follows a typical day in the life of TMC dealing with the complex issues of COVID while continuing to provide guests food and groceries. The event’s primary sponsor, Mark Kelly of Safety Marking, Inc. generously matched every dollar raise, helping the program reach its goal of $300,000. Other sponsors included Ridgefield Thrift, Aquarion and Bank of America. Many individuals went above and beyond to do on-line fundraising for the event which raised program awareness.

The video features staff, volunteers and guests of TMC. Kenneth Graham who was a guest, now gainfully employed and coming into TMC to volunteer his time in the kitchen preparing meals states “I found the staff would listen…..I feel like I should give back because they were here for me.” 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.”

The Thomas Merton Center is a program of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County which operates a day shelter that is the largest soup kitchen and the largest food pantry, the EatSmart Market Place, in Bridgeport. The program is committed to providing a loving, safe and hope-filled community atmosphere that responds to the needs of its guests and residents and respects the dignity of each person. The Thomas Merton Center reflects to the individual and the community our shared responsibility to love and support one another.

Family of Bridgeport man who died of cancer raises money in his memory for Merton Center April 26th, 2021
A Bridgeport family who recently lost their loved one to cancer is asking for the public’s help finishing a job he started. The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport feeds thousands of people every month. During the pandemic, city officials say it performed the vital function of keeping many families from going hungry. Anthony Mobilio, who passed away from cancer in January, was a big supporter of the Merton Center. Mobilio was the owner of Mobilio & Son Heating and Cooling. The last job he agreed to do was to install a new boiler for the charity.
Carol Mobilio says her brother was an extraordinary man who always thought of others and got the job done no matter what obstacles were in the way. “Growing up without our parents, we had this bond that was amazing,” she says. “We were praying for a miracle until the very end, and we never gave up hope.”
Mobilio’s nephews carried on the job in memory of their uncle. “I think it’s just special to give back where you come from, and you never forget what you come from, and I think that’s important,” says Shawn Mobilio, Anthony’s nephew.The Mobilio family is asking the community to come together to help the Merton Center pay for the boiler. “We want to raise money for the Merton Center, we want to dedicate the boiler in his memory,” says Carol Mobilio.
Bill Colson, who heads the Merton Center, says this fundraising effort could have an enormous impact. He says it could help the nonprofit continue serving some of the most vulnerable members of the Bridgeport community. “It’s really going to pay great benefits to us and what we do here at the Thomas Merton Center,” Colson says.

View the full story on News 12..

Family of Shelton man helping Merton Center in his memory March 17th, 2021

SHELTON — The family of a Shelton man who died earlier this year is raising money in his memory to help a Bridgeport-based operation that helps feed the hungry.

Anthony Mobilio, a Shelton resident for more than 25 years, spent much of his working career in the heating industry, which is why his family felt The Thomas Merton Center’s need for a replacement boiler system would a perfect way to honor his memory.

Mobilio’s sister, Carol Mobilio, said on Jan. 14 — the day before her brother died from cancer — Sabine Kuczo from the center called his nephew, Joseph Mobilio Jr., of Cheshire-based Mobilio and Son Heating and Cooling, for help with replacing the building’s heating boiler system.

“Anthony would have loved helping the Merton Center with this project,” Carol Mobilio said. “My family and I informed the Merton Center we would like to support this project in Anthony’s memory to help raise funds and they established a memorial in his name.”

Anthony Mobilio started Anthony’s Fuel in Bridgeport with his brothers, twin Vincent and Joseph, which was in operation for 25 years. In 2008, he joined Southern Connecticut Gas Co. while also owning his company, Salem Heating and Cooling in Shelton.

“Anthony enjoyed helping serve families with all their heating needs,” his sister said.

The family is raising money to support a new heating boiler for The Thomas Merton Center, a Catholic Charities program. The center is a food service program which offers breakfast and lunch daily through its soup kitchen. Groceries are provided once a week through its food pantry.

Anthony Mobilio was born in Bridgeport and, his sister said, was raised with “strong family values and a highly motivated work ethic.”

She said her brother started his education and training in the heating industry at the age of 18, working for Hoffman Fuel for three years before starting Anthony’s Fuel in Bridgeport with his brothers.

“He was a mentor and inspiration to other HVAC technicians in the heating business, especially his nephew, Joseph Jr.,” Carol Mobilio added.

 

By Brian Gioiele

Shared from the 3/17/2021 Connecticut Post eEdition

2020 Friendsgiving is a HUGE Success! Watch the Videos Now! January 4th, 2021

Thank you to everyone who supported the 2020 Friendsgiving event. With your help, $132,285 was raised to help support the Thomas Merton Center’s mission to feed the hungry in Bridgeport. This far surpassed our initial goal of $100,000.

If you unfortunately missed the event, you can watch the video below. We have shared the event in its entirety and even broke it down into segments for your convenience. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Full Length Friendsgiving Video Event

Abbreviated Friendsgiving Video Event

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Thomas Merton Center

Chef Lorraine Kelly Preparing Our Friendsgiving Meal

Maribeth Johnson Explains What the Thomas Merton Center Means to Her

What the Thomas Merton Center Means to Veteran Joseph Oliveras

Catholic Charities of Fairfield County Joins with Bank of America to Launch Innovative Restaurant Partnership in Stamford and Bridgeport September 8th, 2020

Support Provides Double The Impact: Meals Purchased from Locally-Owned Restaurants Served to Those In Need at New Covenant Center and Thomas Merton Centers

Fairfield, Connecticut – September 7, 2020 – Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, the largest private social service provider in the state of Connecticut, received a grant from Bank of America to create an innovative meal partnership with local restaurants in Stamford and Bridgeport. The meals purchased supported the New Covenant Center and Thomas Merton Center, Catholic Charities’ partner centers that operate two large soup kitchens and food pantries in regions that were hit the hardest by the coronavirus. Not only does this partnership support locally owned Connecticut restaurants, but it put these delicious, locally-produced meals on the plates of those who are in need here throughout Fairfield County.

Rohans Family Spice delivers meals-to-go to the Thomas Merton Center

Before the coronavirus, Catholic Charities served over 1.3 million meals per year across the county through its soup kitchens, food pantries, and senior nutrition programs. Due to the ongoing health crisis, that number significantly increased by 300 percent. Catholic Charities used the grant from Bank of America to purchase food from local restaurants in Stamford and Bridgeport to serve at the soup kitchens at the New Covenant and Thomas Merton Centers. As so many businesses had to close during the state shutdown, supporting local restaurants is critical now more than ever, as capacity remains at 50% for indoor dining, and many restaurants have had to permanently shut their doors.

“As the coronavirus continues to impact our residents, it is extraordinary to witness Catholic Charities provide for our most vulnerable populations and support local businesses at the same time,” said Bill Tommins Southern Connecticut Market President for Bank of America. “At the onset of the coronavirus, Bank of America made a commitment to support vulnerable populations in the communities we serve. We are grateful that we can support organizations like Catholic Charities because they are so dedicated to helping those in need.”

“Working with Bank of America has been a blessing for our staff and guests. The project has allowed our guests to explore different food that they normally would not encounter. They truly enjoy it. Our staff loves engaging with the different restaurant owners and learning about their experiences and how they have been impacted by the pandemic, just as we have,” said Craig Adler, Director of the Thomas Merton Center.

A meal-to-go prepared by Rohans Family Spice

The Stamford and Bridgeport restaurants that the New Covenant Center and Thomas Merton Center purchased food from includes the Parkway Diner, Michael’s Italian Restaurant, Seasons Eats, Sunshine Cuisine, The Original Vazzy’s, and Rohan’s Family Spice Restaurant. Combined, these restaurants helped the food centers provide over 1500 meals to local residents.

Johnny Vazzano, owner of The Original Vazzy’s understands that his customers are now facing financial hardships and is doing his best to help ease that burden by offering discounts and promotions, like The Family Meal Deal. The restaurant feels that being a part of the community and maintaining a spirit of giving is a vital part of what they do. Vazzy’s has always given back to the City of Bridgeport even before the pandemic and have been regular donors to the Thomas Merton Center. Johnny Vazzano and his staff believe that “we are all in this together.”

“This project was not only very beneficial to New Covenant Center, but it was also enlightening. Our staff was able to meet the owners of these wonderful restaurants and hear their stories of how they were impacted by COVID-19. This virus knows no boundaries. It impacted these businesses, our agency and most importantly the guests we serve. The project coordinated by Bank of America helped all of us,” said John Gutman, Executive Director of New Covenant Center.

St. Catherine Of Siena Collects Donations To Support Three Area Food Banks May 6th, 2020

TRUMBULL—On a picture-perfect spring morning, an enthusiastic crew of volunteers from the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena wearing face masks and gloves welcomed more than 150 cars to a contact-free Drive Through Food Drive to support the Trumbull Food PantryBlessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport, and the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport, all of which are experiencing extraordinary need right now.  Through the generosity of St. Catherine’s parishioners, the May 2 effort raised more than $3,000 in cash donations and food donations overflowed from nearly 100 feet of tables.

“Demand for food at Thomas Merton Center has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 crisis began, which is now serving nearly 500 meals daily, up from 150 per day at this time last year. Some of these meals we are delivering to clients of other Bridgeport non-profits, including homeless shelters who don’t have food resources,” said Mike Donoghue, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.  Mr. Donoghue extends a very special thank you to Dan & Kelly Murphy, Parishioners of St. Catherine’s who organized the event, the many volunteers who helped remove food from cars and deliver it to the food banks, as well as everyone who drove through with donations on Saturday.

Father Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena, reflects that “Many families who came to help were wearing masks.  They had big smiles under their masks, which I could see in their eyes, as they were here because they wanted to help.  It’s attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that it is in giving that we receive.” He continues: “We don’t know who the recipients of this food will be other than that they are hungry and in need.  And we know that not one of those cars would have come on that day had it not been for Jesus Christ, who came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.”

Mr. Donoghue noted that “Our clients are hourly workers who have recently lost jobs, immigrants, homeless, or mentally ill individuals struggling to make ends meet. Please know how grateful we are for your help and support! Catholic Charities programs are a partnership with all the generous and caring faithful of our Diocese. Thank you for helping us treat every human being, especially those who are most vulnerable, with the love and respect they deserve!”

If you missed the event and would like to help, financial contributions for this purpose are still welcome. The Social Justice and Charitable Outreach Committee is using all financial donations to buy food which will be divided equally among the three food banks. Please mail your contribution for this purpose to 220 Shelton Road, Trumbull CT 06611.  Make your check payable to St. Catherine of Siena, and write FOOD BANKS in the memo line.

Plans for a second event are already in the works.

The Drive Through Food Drive was organized by St. Catherine’s Social Justice and Charitable Outreach team, led by Salvatore Spadaccino. Other initiatives that the Social Justice & Charitable Outreach Team has worked on include: toiletry drive, school backpack drive, Thanksgiving food drive, annual Parish giving tree, pro-life baby shower, and more. For more information on the Social Justice and Charitable Outreach ministry at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, contact Salvatore Spadaccino, Coordinator for Social Justice and Charitable Outreach, at [email protected]

The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena warmly welcomes anyone who is new to our area, anyone who is searching for the truth, or anyone who is looking for a spiritual home. We are joyfully and faithfully Roman Catholic in belief and practice— a community of faith, worship, service, and formation—and with open hearts we invite all our brothers and sisters into a living and saving friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, in the communion of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  We are conveniently located at 220 Shelton Road in the Nichols area of Trumbull.

As seen in Fairfield County Catholic

Thomas Merton Center Receives Award from SHU March 30th, 2020

Bridgeport – On Monday, March 30, 2020, The Thomas Merton Center was informed that due to the program’s collaboration with Sacred Heart University’s College of Health Professions, the program had been selected to receive the College of Health Professions 2020 Community Partner Award in recognition of contributions to the college.  The organization was nominated for this award by Dr. Lola Halperin from the Occupational Therapy Program, College of Health Professions, Sacred Heart University.

This award is given to an organization which has demonstrated exceptional collaboration to further the educational goals and mission of the college. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sacred Heart University was unable to present the award in person. Instead, the award was presented virtually and the news of this award was shared with the SHU Community.

“We are humbled to receive such an honor from Sacred Heart during such a tumultuous time in all of our lives. ” stated Craig Adler, Director of The Thomas Merton Center. “Our staff truly appreciates the collaboration we have with Sacred Heart University. Now more than ever we see the value of Health Care Professionals in our world and The Thomas Merton Center is proud to be part of the educational process for the students of Sacred Heart University.”

 

Catholic Charities Resources Stressed As Crisis Grows March 30th, 2020

BRIDGEPORT—The demand for food resources at Catholic Charities of Fairfield County has increased 50 percent in recent weeks and may double because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to Executive Director Michael Donoghue.

The three soup kitchens that serve the county have seen a significant rise in demand as more people turn to them at a time when other food pantries and cafes have closed, he said. The need is so great that entire families have been showing up and waiting in long lines for meals.

“Just about all of our 30-plus programs are open,” Donoghue said. “This is when our clients really need us. The working poor, the homeless, and the elderly are the ones being hurt the most by this crisis, and our mission has always been to take care of our most vulnerable neighbors in Fairfield County.”

The food services teams of Catholic Charities have been dealing with increasing demand at New Covenant Center in Stamford, Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and Morning Glory Breakfast Program in Danbury.

In Stamford, where there is no other food cafe for eight miles, the staff at New Covenant Center is serving 300 meals a day, up from 200 last year, and the total could pass 400, Donoghue said.

Because food pantries and services in the area have shut down, Catholic Charities is assisting other non-profits that serve the homeless and immigrant community, including Pacific House shelter, he said.

New Covenant Center also runs a food pantry three days a week for low-income residents, who can receive up to 10 days of groceries a month.

“That demand has gone up substantially, and we expect it to rise even more,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-century pandemic, and if there is any time the services of Catholic Charities are needed, it is right now.”

Because of the regulations that require social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, people are not permitted to congregate in the cafeteria, and the Center has been offering takeout for clients.

Similar restrictions are in place at Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport, which previously served breakfast and lunch and is now providing some 250 takeout meals a day, up from 150. Because other soup kitchens in Bridgeport have closed, Catholic Charities is providing assistance to them, along with several shelters.

In Danbury, which is served by the Morning Glory Breakfast Program, Catholic Charities has an outreach team that is working with the city to provide food and blankets for the homeless after the shelter was forced to close and residents were relocated to a nearby gymnasium, Donoghue said.

“In an environment like this, anyone who is homeless certainly needs food, along with those who have lost their jobs and are trying to make ends meet to pay their rent,” Donoghue said.

Catholic Charities also operates a Meals on Wheels program in lower Fairfield County, which provides 275 meals a day to the home-bound elderly. A network of eight drivers delivers prepackaged meals to shut-ins.

“In many cases, our driver is the only person these elderly people will see on a given day,” Donoghue said. “They will go to the door to make sure they are OK and drop off the meal.”

That demand has also increased significantly, he said.

“I can’t say enough about the employees of Catholic Charities who put themselves in harm’s way every single day,” he said. “They are showing up to work every day. I am so proud to be part of this organization, which helps the poor and vulnerable, especially at a time like this.”

The demand on employees is particularly difficult now because many of the 2000 local volunteers who assisted the staff are over 65 years old, retired and in high-risk categories. They have been advised to stay home to avoid contracting COVID-19, he said.

At the same time, Donoghue said, supporters of Catholic Charities are helping out in other ways, and many people have been buying extra groceries and dropping them off at the soup kitchens.

Catholic Charities also runs Room to Grow Preschool in Norwalk, which is temporarily closed due to the Governor’s orders on school closures. However, the teachers and director have been doing food collections at the school once a week and developed a system that lets families drive by and pick up a bag of groceries.

Donoghue said the crisis has also strained services that support immigrants and provide behavioral health counseling, particularly among those suffering depression and anxiety.

“This is the time we need the help and support of the community,” Donoghue said. “We need donations because our costs have gone up as we  serve people in need and offer assistance to other non-profits.”

To make a donation or use Amazon Wish List to purchase supplies such as food containers, bottled water and bags for the soup kitchens, go to the website of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, www.ccfairfield.org and click on the link “How you can help us respond to the Covid-19 crisis.”

“Catholic Charities is doing everything we can to step up and step into the void that has been created,” Donoghue said. “We need donations now more than ever to serve the least of our brothers as we’re asked to do in Matthew:25.”

AS SEEN IN FAIRFIELD COUNTY CATHOLIC