The Valley Community Foundation awarded Center Stage Theatre a three-year $120,000 grant recently. This grant guarantees Center Stage $95,000 plus up to an additional $25,000 in a dollar-for-dollar match with its supporters. Center Stage Theatre is a nonprofit organization, founded by Gary and Francesca Scarpa in 2005. The theater, which now operates at 54 Grove Street, presents a full season of five productions, using age-appropriate casting. \u201cReceiving this grant is a big vote of confidence from the Valley Community Foundation,\u201d Executive Director Francesca Scarpa said. \u201cWe are grateful to the VCF for recognizing the importance of the arts and arts education in our community. With their help, we have been able to build a strong base for a long future, and to continue to be a vital arts organization in the Lower Naugatuck Valley.\u201d Gary Scarpa echoed a similar sentiment. \u201cIf you told me when we opened Center Stage in 2005 that seven or eight years later we would be getting a grant in that amount, I would have said, \u2018No way,\u2019\u201d Gary Scarpa said. \u201cIt\u2019s such a big step to have the Valley Community Foundation recognize we are worthy of that kind of gift, and we need it for us to proceed into the future the way we want to.\u201d Scarpa said the theater tries to emulate the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, just without the professional actors and paid employees. \u201cWe operate a lot like a professional regional theater,\u201d Gary Scarpa said. \u201cExcept our people are working for free \u2014 set design, lighting, and actors are all doing this as a labor of love.\u201d The theater has gained loyal supporters who donate to the theater, and the grant will be a big help. Center Stage\u2019s purpose is to enhance the cultural environment within its community, to present high-quality theatrical productions at affordable prices, to encourage growth and education through the performing arts, and to provide a means for interested adults, teens and children to experience and participate in various aspects of live theater, according to Gary and Fran Scarpa. The grant has been given to Center Stage to provide general operating support for growth and education through performing arts programming and participation in live theater. The theater is promoting other local artists by displaying their work. When A Christmas Carol opens Nov. 30, nine visual artists will have work displayed in the lobby. For more information on Center Stage Theatre, visit centerstageshelton.com or call 203-225-6079. Scarpa said, in a way, it\u2019s like the theater has arrived. \u201cYou don\u2019t come by a $120,000 grant easily, and it took seven years of hard work on our part, doing great theater that people support,\u201d Scarpa said.