June 26, 2017 | Greenwich Time

GREENWICH — The state has earmarked more than $360,000 for two Greenwich non-profit agencies to assist with one-time infrastructure improvements to upgrade efficiency and effectiveness.

The funding is part of $15.1 million in grants that will be distributed to 50 service organizations throughout Connecticut by the state Office of Policy and Management Nonprofit Grant Program. Abilis, a Greenwich non-profit dedicated to helping people with developmental disabilities, will receive $241,802, which will fund the purchase new vehicles. Family Centers, which provides a wide array of human services local residents ranging from children to seniors, will get $126,996 to buy new IT equipment.


According to Jim Vivier, Family Centers’ chief advancement officer, the benefits of the grant will extend beyond town borders. In 2011, Family Centers entered into a partnership with two similar human services agencies — the Family and Children’s Agency in Norwalk and Life Bridge in Bridgeport — to work together toward upgrading computer infrastructure by forming the Fairfield County IT Collaborative. This doesn’t just help the 23,000 people served annually through Family Centers,” Vivier said. “This is also about the 20,000 people served at Family and Children’s Agency and the 20,000 at Life Bridge. The impact of this will be considerable.”

Dennis Perry, Abilis’ president and CEO, said grants through this program and others, including the Community Development Block Grant program, are critical for addressing agencies’ capital needs. “Capital projects affect our ability to operate in an uninterrupted manner,” Perry said. “These grants are so important to allow us to address those needs and keep our services going.” Perry said the federal funds through the block grant program helped purchase a new boiler, pay for a generator and install a new driveway, all of which keeps the program running smoothly. Now the state grant money will be used to buy new vehicles to keep clients going back and forth between their homes and Abilis in a reliable fashion.

Cuts to state funding for non-profits has become a major challenge in recent years, forcing organizations to make do with less, or even nothing, from the state. Perry said the near future is particularly uncertain given the situation in Hartford, where state lawmakers have yet to agree to a budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1.

“There is no protocol for non-profits and how funding will be administered without a budget,” Perry said. Vivier said people at the non-profits are waiting to see what happens.

"The key word right now is ‘uncertainty.’” Vivier said. “Depending on what budget is approved there could be a whole range of impacts on us. No one knows. So until there is something concrete and final we will operate under the assumption that we will continue to deliver services at the same level of funding we have had.”

Abilis will use its grant to replace four vehicles that can handle multiple wheelchairs, and purchase two minivans. “I’m looking for maximum flexibility for the greatest utility,” Perry said. The vehicles are mostly used to pick up and drop off clients who are in Abilis’ day programs. “These vehicles have to be workhorses,” Perry said. “I don’t have a fleet of back up vans we can use. So this is a great chance for us to modernize the fleet.”