Ever since a groundbreaking in June, Peggy Britt has been overseeing a massive renovation of a late 1700s post and beam house on Fair Street in Guilford, known as the Women and Family Life Center, a place that they have called home for the last twenty years.
“It’s hard to describe how excited we are,” says Peggy, the Center’s Executive Director.
Having moved back into their office in early September, Peggy says there is still much work to be done, such as adding window treatments and rugs, but overall, the space is clean, modern and bright and has an uplifting feel. Just what she wants her clients to experience when they walk in the door.
“Imagine someone walking in here on their worst day, well now it feels so much warmer and more comforting than before,” says Peggy. “We have increased our capacity to serve the shoreline because our rooms are now multi-purpose. The kitchen has been greatly expanded to accommodate meetings and workgroups and includes all new appliances, generously donated by Page Hardware. Having space in the kitchen as a staff area AND program area is HUGE!”
The Center’s mission is to help women and their families handle crisis situations with dignity and grace. Crises can come in many forms – financial, divorce, infant loss, domestic abuse. The crisis list is long but the Center has an array of programs that cover the spectrum.
A popular program is Restart, for women who are experiencing divorce or separation. The fees are a nominal $5 per session and run for seven weeks. Here women discover how to reinvent themselves as head of a household, create co-parenting plans and begin to think about new relationships.
Then there is the Money Smart Financial Education Series that teaches both men and women how to use budgeting tools to help manage the bills and decrease spending. The KidsHUGS (Hope, Understanding, Growth, and Support) program is open to children from ages 6-16 who need support while a parent is coping with a serious or chronic illness.
And then there is domestic abuse.
“Sadly, it’s a big problem,” says Mirjana Toyn, the Center’s Development Director “It’s a very challenging time for a woman. We help them get back on their feet. We offer a safe search program, where they can make confidential phone calls, use our printer, and store files here so they don’t leave a trail at home.”
They also offer wellness programs, like yoga and tai chi, and both programs take place in the beautifully redesigned carriage house in the back of the property.
All these programs are open to people from any town and are not limited to Guilford residents.
“The number of working people who are falling behind financially are increasing in towns like Madison, Branford, and Guilford,” says Mirjana. “People aren’t making what they used to make and it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet. You never know what curve balls await. Today you might be a donor and tomorrow you might need these services yourself. We are here to help but we need help, we need the donations to come in.“
Peggy says, “We raised half a million dollars for a capital campaign to renovate the center and expand our referral program. Now we need to continue the fundraising. In order for us to be here for another 25 years, we need to raise money each month to serve those women who are coming in the door.”
A fun way they are raising money this fall is through their 23rd Annual Men Who Cook Gala that is happening on October 22, 2017, at the Guilford Yacht Club.
30 local businessmen will don their amateur chef aprons that night and cook for the crowd in support for women. Rick Orlando, who owns a restaurant in Woodstock, New York and has appeared on the Food Network shows Bobby Flay and Chopped will be judging the men that night.
Jeff Trombetta, a professional chef is going to run the kitchen that night, making sure the kitchen is expedited properly. After all, a three-course meal is involved, along with appetizers and dessert. The men compete for prizes like a bottle of Prosecco.
“If people want tickets they need to buy them now,” says Mirjana. “We have sold quite a few already and when they sell out, that’s it. We sell out every year. And if they can’t come they can donate online!”