Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries (GWIM) and the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee are the recipients of the 2018 Trustee Fund Award, an honor created by current and former trustees of Connecticut Community Foundation to recognize exceptional innovation and collaboration that benefits communities in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills. Each award includes a $5,000 grant from the Trustee Fund to further the missions of the two organizations. The trustees presented the awards at their annual meeting on July 26 in Oxford, Connecticut.

Located on East Main Street in Waterbury, GWIM’s primary mission is “to nourish the hungry in a dignified, respectful manner.” Hundreds of volunteers and local church members, business leaders and community groups donate and distribute food through GWIM in a massive, coordinated effort led by Barbara Ann Dublin, who has served as GWIM’s executive director for 25 years.

GWIM’s soup kitchen serves 450 meals daily to people residing in towns across Greater Waterbury. Additionally, their emergency food pantry distributes groceries on the last Monday of each month to an average of 500-600 people, who often begin lining up as early as 4 a.m. GWIM also collaborates with city officials and other local organizations to help people in need find shelter and acquire mental and physical health benefits, food stamps, transportation, legal aid, veterans’ assistance and counseling.

Trustee Kathryn Kehoe of Washington, Connecticut, in presenting the Trustee Fund Award to GWIM, observed that “GWIM does so much more than feed individuals and families…GWIM feeds hope. Many recipients are helped to get back on their feet and are empowered to become self- sufficient.”

The second awardee, the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee, is composed of city residents from different walks of life who came together to create a public event centered around African-American culture to mark Juneteenth, and to create space for complex conversations about racism, privilege, and building community.

A celebration of the emancipation of African-Americans as slaves, Juneteenth has been officially celebrated for the past several decades on or around June 19 in many cities across the United States. The commemoration takes different forms, shaped by local communities. Until this year when the Juneteenth Committee stepped in, Waterbury did not hold a visible Juneteenth cultural event.

Through the efforts of the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee, on June 15, 2018 the first-ever Juneteenth celebration was held in Waterbury. Over 100 people attended the celebration of African-American freedom, heritage and excellence, which featured live music, poetry, singing and vendors selling traditional African garments and goods.

“What impressed the Trustee Fund members about the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee was its commitment to fostering leadership across the generations, including among youth,” said Trustee Daniel Caron of Woodbury when presenting the award.

Sean Mosley, a Waterbury high school English teacher, led Waterbury’s Juneteenth committee. He accepted the award on behalf of the committee, and said that they are already planning future community-building projects, including the development of a college scholarship fund for local youth committed to civic engagement.

Julie Loughran, president and CEO of Connecticut Community Foundation, said, “GWIM and the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee are just two examples among many more of how people and organizations in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills are taking care of their neighbors, confronting challenges creatively and celebrating the rich tapestry of our communities. The values of innovation, collaboration and creative partnership that Trustee Fund Award recipients embody set an example for us all.”

Top photos: Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries and the Waterbury Juneteenth Celebration Committee with their awards. Photos by Jake Koteen Photography

View all the photos from the Trustee Fund Award Celebration