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Waterford - The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Foundation brought nearly two dozen local charitable organizations together today and handed them checks totaling more than $90,000.
Meeting in the chamber's board room, chairman of the foundation's board Lou Ziegler announced the nonprofits and their missions one at a time, with the largest amount, $25,000, going to the Tommy Toy Fund that plans to distribute 5,000 toys, books and gloves to children during the holidays this year.
"This is one of the most heart-warming programs we do," said Tony Sheridan, president and chief executive of the chamber, after the program was over.
The chamber holds a Holiday Gala every year to help raise money for the foundation giveaway. In its 30th event last year at Mohegan Sun, the foundation raised $105,196, and since 2002 the group has donated more than $950,000.
"Even in bad years, we usually raise about $100,000," Sheridan said. "It speaks eloquently to the spirit of the community."
Among the programs supported by foundation grants were the 3-year-old New London Community Orchestra, which received $1,100 to provide summer violin lessons to kids in fourth through sixth grades who participate in the Music City Strings program. Tom Clark, president of the organization, said about 30 children currently are associated with the orchestra, which is composed of high achievers.
The Center for Hospice Care Southeast Connecticut won $3,200 to expand its Expressive Arts program for children and teens, while Mystic Area Shelter & Hospitality got $5,000 for a homelessness-prevention program.
United Community & Family Services received $5,500 to create an autism spectrum disorder program covering assessment, diagnosis and care management.
"I would once again like to thank the community for its continued support of the foundation's Holiday Gala," Ziegler said in a statement. "Once again you have come through in a time of need showing your generosity for those less fortunate."
Other organizations and their grant amounts were: Community Coalition for Children, $1,000; Norwich Human Services, $1,000; Norwich Rotary Foundation, $1,000; The Light House, $1,100; Read to Ride Inc., $1,500; Safe Futures, $2,150; Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, $2,200; Care Net Pregnancy Resource Center, $2,500; ECHO Cancer Foundation, $2,500; Higher Edge,$2,800.
Also, High Hopes Therapeutic Riding, $3,000; Thames Valley Council for Community Action, $3,000; Child & Family Agency, $3,300; Thames Valley Family Program, $4,000; Children's Museum of Southeastern Connecticut, $5,000; FRESH New London, $5,000; S.T.E.P.S. Inc. (Striving Toward Empowered Personal Success), $5,000; St. Vincent de Paul Place, $5,000.