Town Cancels Lease with The Alliance for Community Empowerment, (The Alliance)
South End Community Center Non-Profit
A nonprofit organization that acts as a one-stop shop for South End residents for services from child care to rent, fuel and utility assistance, finds itself searching for a new home after decades of serving the South End of Stratford.
Dr. Monette Ferguson, Executive Director for The Alliance for Community Empowerment, (The Alliance) a regional 501(c)(3) non-profit agency, which has been in the South End Community Center for decades, received notice from the town January 18th stating it would have to move out.
According to Dr. Ferguson, the notice came as a surprise and at the worst possible time, with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the community. There are presently 52 local families who use the Alliance’s services. “The Alliance provides wrap-around services for our early learners: clothing, employment, rent, utilities, education, everything they need to focus on growing and launching out of poverty.”
The notice itself states the town needs the space for other community needs. Intricate part of serving that community center for decades, food pantry used by their clients
“The town is reclaiming the space to deliver essential programs at the South End Community Center. Simply put, we cannot meet these growing and pressing community needs and accommodate your space requirements.” the notice said.
Dr. Ferguson learned the town had other plans for the Alliance’s space last week when Chief Administrative Officer Chris Tymniak told her the town would not be renewing the lease. The organization has for years renewed its lease annually, most recently over the summer (July). Dr. Ferguson said that this lease expires on June 30th.
“This contract was just renewed in July with no whisper of a cancellation. I’m just super disappointed,” she said. “The whole conversation was a shock to me. And I was super emotional in the conversation. Some might describe it as angry but this is what we do.” I reminded Tymniak, that we paid our rent faithfully, even during the pandemic, and that we are a vital part of the community and federally funded.”
According to an article in The Connecticut Post, Greg Reilly, who handles public affairs for the town, said in response that the town needs the space to extend its own services to neighboring residents, including expanding the community center’s food pantry. In the article Reilly said there is a possibility the Alliance can stay within the center, or possibly move to the Birdseye municipal building or expand its space at the former Holy Name of Jesus school. “Discussions are ongoing to determine what space may be available to the alliance,” Reilly said.
According to Dr. Ferguson, she has not met nor had any conversations with Greg Reilly and is unaware of where he got his information, as it was not relayed to her.
Relocating the Alliance is tricky, because the group operates an early learning program, which is tightly regulated. The organization was established in 1964 from the War on Poverty with Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Alliance is an early Head Start grantee in Fairfield County serving over 1,000 clients for over 60 years.
Originally called ABCD, the Alliance for Community Empowerment serves more than 35,000 individuals annually through its broad range of services in a six-town area, covering Stratford, Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Norwalk, Trumbull, and Westport