Middlesex United Way: Literacy, housing, early education programs focus on shoreline

MIDDLETOWN — The Middlesex United Way is dedicated to working on the improvement of education, income, health, and housing in our community, and has been making progress in these areas since 1935. Of the 15 towns we serve in Middlesex County, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight some of the work and resources we have in our shoreline communities of Clinton, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.

Middlesex United Way supports many programs that touch the lives of Clinton residents. In the last fiscal year, at least 2,382 Clinton residents benefited from Middlesex United Way initiatives and programs provided by our funding partners. In all, 1,964 Clinton residents visited one of the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, a United Way funding partner, to receive a warm meal when in need.

Fifty-three residents sought and received help at The Connection Counseling, and more than 250 youth in town participated in either Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, both United Way partners. United Way also established and actively supports the Best Beginnings initiative, which provides a strong base for the development of Clinton children up to age 5. They work with more than 80 families in town, ensuring the children are prepared to enter the school system and ready to learn.

Old Saybrook is home to another outstanding nonprofit agency providing housing assistance to residents in need. Established in 2003 with the support of the United Way to address the shortage of affordable workforce housing in our area, HOPE is focused on finding housing solutions for low-income residents who suffer disproportionately from the housing crisis.

We continue to support HOPE as the organization works with town government, builders, and other private partners to build housing that is attractive, sustainable, and appropriate to the surrounding neighborhood.

Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore, located right in Westbrook, is a Middlesex United Way funded nonprofit dedicated to providing one-on-one tutoring in English literacy skills at no cost to our hard-working residents.

When Michele came to Connecticut after living in Brazil, she found that, due to the language barrier, she was unable to continue working the type of job she had in Brazil, and began working as a cleaning lady, but without the ability to communicate at work. When she was not working, she was home raising her daughter, who was born blind and on the autism spectrum.

After her daughter turned 9, Michele decided it was time for her to pursue her dreams. She came to Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore to learn English and gain greater communication skills. With the help of her tutor, she was able to make great improvements in her English skills and was now able to better communicate with medical personnel to help her daughter receive the medical attention she needed.

Michele has decided she wants to go back to college and work in the medical field as an interpreter. With the help of her tutor, she knows her dreams are no much closer to a reality.

Stories like this are one of the countless reasons we are so proud of the amazing work our funded partners do daily. From HOPE to Literacy Volunteers Valley Shore, to numerous other programs and initiatives in our community, we work tirelessly to make sure that education, income, health, and housing are top priorities in our work.

To learn more about the resources available to you in your town, visit middlesexunitedway.org/mytown.

Kevin Wilhelm is CEO and president of the Middlesex United Way, based in Middletown.