Kiwanis is a Native American word that means "we trade" or "we share our talents," and members of The Kiwanis Club of Fairfield are doing just that -- working together to put on a successful inaugural golf outing that will benefit the Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless and treats those suffering with addiction.

Bridgeport Rescue Mission Director of Development Linda Casey was the guest speaker at a Kiwanis Club luncheon back in October and her words moved club members to action. Casey is thankful Kiwanis members took an interest in the organization.

"They could have chosen anybody," she said.

And the timing is ideal, Casey noted, as it is around this time of year that donations begin to drop off. Like in past years, she was gearing for what she calls "the summer slump."

Slumps aren't good when "the hunger needs of the community go on every day, no matter what time of the year," Casey said.

The numbers of those in need have been growing in recent years.

"In our community," said Pastor Terry Wilcox, "we were averaging giving away 12,000 meals a month. Last year, that went up to 24,000 meals a month. And this last year, these last few months, we're averaging 50,000 meals a month that we're giving away."

The mission serves meals at its Fairfield Avenue base of operations, distributes pantry boxes to families in need, and has a "mobile kitchen" that travels as far south as Norwalk and as far north as Ansonia to provide families with hot meals.

In Bridgeport's Marina Village, long lines of young children wait for the mobile kitchen to show up to take some hot meals back to their houses; at mission headquarters it's not uncommon for 10-year-old boys to show up by themselves and ask for food as nonchalantly as someone buying a pack of gum; and this past Wednesday morning, as Casey was driving to work on Fairfield Avenue, seven minutes from her job, one woman was going car-to-car begging, as the cars were stopped at a red light. Casey hadn't seen that until recently.

Now, though, because of the Kiwanis Club's help, fewer people will go hungry.

As Casey stood before Kiwanis members in a room at the Gaelic American Club Wednesday afternoon, she said, "What you have here is a unique ability to be able to harness a broad array of resources, with a lot of community contacts and networks, to really make a golf tournament make a huge impact in the community, so we're really grateful for your help."

The organization that the golf tournament will help support doesn't just feed, clothe and shelter people (50 men and women). It also helps people turn their lives around by getting them to overcome addiction.

This past Easter Sunday, Wilcox was at a church that helps the mission and a man came up to him and said, hello. Wilcox didn't recognize him. The man graduated from the substance program program six years ago. He now works as a youth leader in the church and has been attending church every week since graduation. The man is now married and working in Fairfield.

"They're involved in a life of service. They're contributors to the community and that's a result of what happens at the Bridgeport Rescue Mission," Wilcox said.

Casey added, "We're not just about kicking your addiction. We're not about giving you a hand-out. We're really about reconciling and redeeming lives so that they can go on to become citizens who understand how to live life to the fullest, according to God's purpose."

Kiwanis members have been hard at work using their connections and people skills to gain sponsors, secure raffle and auction items, secure ads for the program and promotional materials, and to also find golfers who might like to register to hit the links as an individual or as part of a foursome. Dirk Vanderblue ran through a list of a number of businesses that have donated items for the tournament. It was long and read like a "Who's Who" of local businesses.

One goal of the tournament is to have at least 100 golfers. Sixty-eight have already committed. Tee-off time will occur around noon on May 10 at Tashua Knolls. The maximum number of golfers will likely be somewhere between 120 and 130. The $175 individual package covers greens fees, golf cart, lunch, dinner and a gift bag. The price for a foursome is $700.

Anyone looking to be a part of the event, but not golf, can pay $50. Contributions are also welcome from anyone who cannot attend. Sponsorship opportunities vary and range from $100 to $1,500. Ads in the program vary in price from $150 for a full page to $50 for a business card-sized ad. Deadline for ad copy is April 16.

Anyone who is interested in the Kiwanis Club's golf tournament should call 203-254-0490. To download the registration form, log onto