A local relief fund set up to aid Fairfield residents who suffered serious damage from Superstorm Sandy has received a $140,000 boost from the Robin Hood Foundation.
The fund was set up by the town in the wake of the late-October storm, with applications processed by Operation Hope, the local nonprofit that manages programs for the homeless and in transitional housing.
As of the beginning of this year, $95,263 already had been raised from contributions from individuals and families, local businesses, civic organizations, houses of worship and the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
Of the Robin Hood money, $100,000 will be allocated to address urgent housing needs, including house repairs, home contents replacement and emergency financial assistance.
Another $25,000 will go toward a temporary, part-time case manager to work with storm victims over a longer term.
The remaining $15,000 will be designated for overhead costs associated with Operation Hope's food pantry and community kitchen, which have seen a 17 percent increase in meals and a 22 percent increase in pantry volume since the storm.
Relief funds can only be used to assist Fairfield residents who suffered direct storm damage to their primary residences, not businesses.
As of last month, Miklos said 13 applications had been received and seven approved, with a total of $13,211 disbursed in aid to cover needs not covered by insurance or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, such as replacement washers and dryers, basement cleanup and mold remediation, and replacing mattresses and box springs.
Most of those grants have been for about $1,200.
"Many people are still struggling to rebuild in the wake of this devastating storm," said town Community and Economic Development Director Mark Barnhart, who serves on the application review committee. "Some are wrestling with the really difficult decision of whether they even can or should rebuild. We know it's hard and we're here to provide whatever assistance we can."
Barnhart said the town continues to work with the state and other disaster recovery organizations to bring manpower and material resources to aid the local shoreline cleanup.
One problem, he said, is that some residents are reluctant to ask for help because they feel there are others who are worse off.
"Let us make that judgment if you are struggling," Barnhart said. "That's what these funds are here for, and people shouldn't feel ashamed to accept the help offered by their friends and neighbors."
Miklos echoed those comments. "We hope that those who read this will let their friends and neighbors know that the fund exists to help them with their unmet needs," she said.
For assistance or more information, contact Operation Hope at 203-292-5588.