TEEG: A model for the future
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Mar. 7, 2011
Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan (D- 84), state Sen. Donald Williams, Jr. (D-29) and state Rep. Danny Rovero (D-51) toured TEEG’s facilities in Thompson on March 4. TEEG (Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group) is a nonprofit agency that provides community services and senior outreach to residents of Thompson, Woodstock and Pomfret. Executive Director Donna Grant led the legislators on a tour of the building and explained the critical role the organization plays in providing services to the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
By leveraging the funds it receives through federal, state, municipal, local and individual contributions, TEEG is able to multiply its good works, said Grant. Those works include a food pantry, a summer lunch program, private fuel assistance, Christmas baskets for community children and elders and a host of other services. TEEG does it with community wide support, a multitude of volunteers, and a steady supply of in-kind donations.
“It’s leveraging people’s passion and time with a little bit of state money to make something much bigger than the sum of its parts,” said Grant. “And that is the key if we are going to keep the safety net intact and take care of vulnerable people. That is the model we’re going to do it with, without coming up with more state money to do it. It’s all about leveraging relationships and resources,” she said.
Grant understands the importance of convincing state legislators of TEEG’s role in serving the state’s most vulnerable at a time when budget negotiations are underway in Hartford. “I understand there’s no new money,” she said. But she is convinced that TEEG presents an efficient and effective model for providing community services in a dignified way. By keeping the administration at a regional level and providing service at [the] local level, there is a public awareness of the kinds of service needed and delivered. The community tends to own it, she said, and when they own it, then they are willing to support it. Grant told the story of one donor’s generous contribution to TEEG. When she asked what motivated him, he replied, “I don’t like being told what I have to pay for. But once you show me how close it is in the community, I want to be a part of the solution.”
TEEG gets its money from a variety of sources. State and federal money is key, Grant said. They were able to take $30,000 from a $78,000 Department of Social Services grant and hire an outreach worker with it. That staff member leveraged $30,000 into $322,000 of food commodities by calling every PTO, Boy and Girl Scout troop, high school, church and faith-based organization to rally people together to donate food or money. “We get about half of what we need from the Connecticut Food Bank and the rest comes from the community,” she said. “That same person is also distributing private fuel funds specifically donated for fuel. So we are stretching out every penny of that grant money.”
Grant took the legislators on a tour of the three-level house where every inch of space is utilized. The food bank is located in the cellar, where even the boiler room doubles as storage for canned goods. Grant showed the contents of a pre-packed box for one person. It contained a box of cereal, peanut butter, one can each of tuna fish, peas, fruit, baked beans, soup, and tomato sauce. It held instant oatmeal and Pepperidge Farm holiday cookies. “This is a food box for a month for a senior,” she said. They also get two canned goods, something from the freezer, and bread if there was a bread delivery. “When people talk about using the system, this is what they get. When you hear that people are using more than one food bank, this is why.”
“It’s not enough to feed a teenage boy for a day,” Donovan said.
TEEG bought a walk-in freezer with a grant of $7,000. When they get money that’s a one-time thing, Grant said, they try to generate capacity with it. The freezer allows them to collect fresh produce and meat donations that they wouldn’t have been able to collect before.
“I’d love to be able to accept Hunters for Hunger and venison donations, but because the meat doesn’t go through a federally inspected food check, we can’t do it,” she said.
TEEG receives state grants worth $119.5 thousand. It receives municipal contributions from Thompson, Woodstock and Pomfret in the amount of $42,000. Local contributions from churches, businesses, civic groups and individuals tally up to almost $117,000. The agency is projected to earn more than $306,000 in fee for service revenues in fiscal year 2010/2011.
In TEEG’s 2010 annual report, 24 programs are listed. They range in scope from early childhood school readiness programs to senior outreach and case management. Instead of dollars, the unit of measure listed is “total times lives were touched.” The 2010 annual report lists that number at 29,672 (2,433 unduplicated individuals and 912 unduplicated families). It is this hard translation that will have to be hashed out in Hartford before the budget gets approved.