With multimillion-dollar estates, expensive vehicles and flourishing shopping and dining districts, it’s easy to see how Fairfield County’s “Gold Coast” label was sewn into place with gold thread. However, it’s not the whole story—poverty does exist here, and the nonprofit Near & Far Aid faces the issue head on. The organization works year-round to ameliorate poverty’s effects by funding charities.
Founded in 1946 by Mrs. Julien (Jeannie) Fay, the wife of a Navy pilot, the original intent was to support European widows and children affected by World War II. The young group was headed first by Mrs. Fay and fellow wives of serviceman, until she and her husband moved to Southport. In 1954, the organization officially took the name Near & Far Aid Association. Over time it has turned to the needs close to home. Some 76,000 people, about 8 percent, live below the poverty line in Fairfield County, according to U.S. Census data. “Our donors’ dollars are going directly back into our Fairfield County communities, serving our neediest neighbors and creating lasting change,” notes Jeanne Burris, president of Near & Far Aid. “We seek to break the vicious cycle of poverty by creating a virtuous circle of giving.”
As at its founding, N&FA is run by volunteers and without office space; these talented women work long hours to help others. Its 2013 Spring Gala raised approximately $1 million. The event, held at Mitchells, featured a Bollywood theme, numerous auction items, a fashion show, Master of Ceremonies Dave Price and Liz Claman and special guest Tony Dovolani of Dancing with the Stars. Event cochairs Jennifer Lau, Lollie Mathews, and Sandra Fleming spent over a year organizing this social-season highlight held at Mitchells, a philanthropically minded fashion destination. N&FA is now working on its annual Golf Classic, which takes place at the Country Club of Fairfield on September 23. It includes a lunch and post-tournament cocktail reception with dinner for the golfers.
The twenty-eight-person board evaluates the effective-ness and overall health of approximately 130 nonprofits each year before determining how to distribute funds. Since 2000, it has granted more than $13 million.
What Mrs. Fay wrote in 1954 to her board members stands today: “The problems of fear, frustration, poverty and despair can be somehow stood up to if their victims suddenly realize they have friends who care.” nearandfaraid.org