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Anonymous donor helps kickstart community journalism fund on Giving Tuesday

We received some fantastic news this past week.

A friend of The Day who supports our plans for an investigative journalism project on economic mobility within our region — starting with the topic of housing — has offered to kick-start our fundraising campaign.

The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed to match up to $5,000 in donations we receive on #GivingTuesday, which is Nov. 30. Giving Tuesday, observed around the world on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is considered a day of generosity, when people have an opportunity to do good, often by donating to a cause they support.

We hope you'll contribute to The Day's Community Journalism Fund. As we've mentioned, our first project is a Housing Solutions Lab.

We can't do this project without additional staff, so we're joining newsrooms across the country in asking for financial support from philanthropic organizations and the public.

Some of you asked, after hearing about our participation in the Local Media Association's Lab for Journalism Funding and reading about the challenges the newspaper industry is facing, whether The Day is struggling financially.

I asked Timothy Dwyer, our publisher and president, to answer that question in an email.

"The Day is in good shape financially. We have the same legacy expense challenges that other media companies have, and we are actively addressing those challenges," Dwyer wrote. "Other media companies have used fund raising to provide specific coverage for readers that are beyond the scope of normal day-to-day reporting, for example investigative journalism or coverage of a topic or issue that is important to the communities we serve. And that is what we are doing in this case."

We are making clear to anyone who donates that The Day will have editorial control over the content we produce. And as always, we will continue to donate a portion of our profits to charities throughout the region through our Bodenwein Public Benevolent Foundation, the philanthropic arm of The Day Publishing Co.

We're committed to providing valuable content through this investigative project. We're working to make the project relevant to our audience by listening to what's important to you.

We've had some enlightening conversations in the two weeks since we announced the start of a "listening tour" to hear from stakeholders on some of the barriers and potential solutions to safe and affordable housing.

Cathy Zall, executive director of the Homeless Hospitality Center in New London, came to the newsroom one afternoon to share her wisdom and experience with me and Assistant Managing Editor Carlos Virgen. She returned a couple of days later, at our request, to record a podcast, which is attached to this column. 

Zall told us that when somebody from The Day calls, she always talks to us. (Thank you, Cathy!)

One woman has left me phone messages daily to describe her life in a local hotel. She pays more than $1,000 a month to live there because she can't find an apartment she can afford. She's about to celebrate her third holiday season there, she said, and it's really depressing. We're hearing about others, including families with children, who are also living in hotels.

We heard from senior citizens and caregivers of disabled people, would-be developers and others we haven't yet had a chance to speak with. One kind person offered to donate to our project as soon as we begin collecting money.

We are working with Connecticut College, Three Rivers Community College, Mitchell College and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on a series of community discussions in January that will be centered around the issue of housing.

It's go-time for us, and we hope you'll join us in shaping and supporting our work.

Here's the link for anyone who wants to donate: theday.com/givingtuesday.

Karen Florin is The Day's Engagement Editor. She can be reached at k.florin@theday.com or  (860) 701-4217. 

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