People’s United Bank Sponsors Community Connections

News Story:

Community Connections, an urban outreach program that teaches students the value of leadership and giving back to the community.

From August 25 to 31, the freshmen, together with 12 upperclassmen, two sophomores and six faculty and staff members, stayed at St. Charles Catholic Urban Center and Golden Hill United Methodist Church in Bridgeport. During the day, the groups worked to build homes for Habitat for Humanity, helped feed people at the Thomas Merton Center and shared time with families in the immediate neighborhood.

“We do this to introduce the freshmen to the Bridgeport community, which gives them the opportunity to get to know people locally while making a difference,” said Phyllis Machledt, director of Service-Learning & Volunteer Programs at SHU. “Community service is more than just kids showing up for an activity to pad their résumé. We’re looking for students who are willing to see a need and work with the community to address it, thereby making life better for many.”  

Community Connections has been sponsored by People’s United Bank since its inception in 1996. “People’s United Bank’s ongoing support of the ideas of community service and leadership development has just been amazing,” Machledt said. “We couldn’t run the program without their financial support.” This year, People’s United Bank granted the program $20,000.

People’s United also provides the school with two minivans for SHU to use for outreach work throughout the year, including Community Connections. “Because we have to shuttle 28 students to each of the sites every day, we could not run the program very well without the funding for those vans,” Machledt said.

“People’s United Bank is proud to be a longtime sponsor of the Community Connections program,” said Timothy Hodges, vice president, Community Relations for People’s United Bank.  “The work being done by Sacred Heart students in the city of Bridgeport is impressive and we are pleased to be able to support their efforts.”

In addition to working with Habitat for Humanity and the Merton Center, this year the students “buddied” with mothers and children from Alpha Community Services for a day at Beardsley Zoo.  They also helped with registration and assisted teachers at Columbus school, worked with the elderly at St. Charles Catholic Urban Center, and coordinated a “Thank You” Community Cookout for all the people they worked with during the week.

“Past participants have told me it was the best week of their life,” Machledt said. “For many students, the experience is both a challenge and opportunity for growth, as it is their first time volunteering their time and working in an urban area rich in diversity.”