Three Valley funders help TEAM Inc. serve Howe Ave. fire victims

Three major Valley funders are helping TEAM Inc. serve the Jan. 6 Shelton fire victims.

The Katharine Matthies Foundation, Valley Community Foundation and Valley United Way have provided money to boost the social services agency’s ability to assist the displaced apartment dwellers.

Shortly after the fire that destroyed a city block along Howe Avenue in downtown Shelton, TEAM Inc. became the lead agency in helping resettle the fire victims.

Twenty-nine people lost homes

The fire displaced 29 people who were living in 23 low-income apartments above the stores destroyed in the fire.

BHCare is helping secure housing for their clients who were affected by the fire and the Red Cross helped fire victims find immediate short-term housing. The majority of the fire victims are being assisted by TEAM.

Security deposits, furniture, clothing

TEAM staff has worked to help fire victims identify potential housing sources, find donated furniture and clothing, and secure security deposits on new apartments.

The work has taken precedence over TEAM's daily operations and has created a significant ripple effect in the amount of work needed to be completed by the Derby-based nonprofit agency.

As a result, the Katharine Matthies Foundation — for which Bank of America serves as trustee — donated $7,500 and the Valley Community Foundation and Valley United Way each committed $5,000 toward TEAM's work to help fire victims cover the costs of initial rent payments and security deposits, which are often double or triple the cost of one month's rent.

Assistance with move-in costs

TEAM Inc. also received assistance from the Howe Avenue Relief Fund (created by the Echo Hose Fire company that responded to the fire), the state Department of Social Services and New Haven Home Recovery to help fire victims cover move-in costs. The total estimated cost for helping the fire victims is $20,000.

With TEAM's assistance, seven fire victims already have found new apartments and more are in the process of securing apartments. TEAM has collected enough furniture to help individuals replace what they lost in the fire.

‘Bringing some normalcy back’

"The United Way is pleased to be able to help the displaced tenants get back on their feet," said Jack Walsh, president and chief operating officer of the Valley United Way.

"The efforts of the firemen and other first responders have been incredible and the outpouring of support from the community was exceptional,” Walsh said. “We are pleased to support TEAM, whose effort is now focused on bringing some normalcy back to the lives of the displaced by getting them into permanent housing."

Taking on an unexpected task

Valley Community Foundation President CEO Sharon Closius said shortly after learning how devastating the fire was, she and Walsh talked about “where our resources could best be put to use to help the fire victims.

“Our board of directors quickly agreed that it was important to support TEAM while they take on this unexpected task without diverting their much-needed resources from the community they serve," Closius said.

Valley rallied around the victims

Richard Knoll, TEAM Inc. president and CEO, said he was grateful for the support. "We at TEAM were so impressed to see how quickly the entire Valley rallied around the fire victims," Knoll said.

"We are especially grateful to the Valley's three biggest funders for coming together to help us recover the costs of resettling the victims, which will allow us to continue our regular work of serving the area's economically vulnerable,” he said.

About the three funders

The Katharine Matthies Foundation was established in 1987 to support and promote quality educational, human services, and healthcare programming for underserved populations. Special consideration is given to organizations that work to prevent cruelty to children and animals.

The Valley Community Foundation distributes hundreds of thousands of grant dollars given by donors annually. Working with the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, it works to deepen the impact of their philanthropy, support grassroots leadership and strengthen nonprofit organizations.

Valley United Way is a philanthropic resource for the Valley towns of Shelton, Ansonia, Derby, Oxford and Seymour, matching the needs of the community and the interests of donors to improve the quality of life in the community. It focuses on youth, families and people in crisis.