NORWALK, Conn. – New Canaan native Samantha Walsh saw the disparity between the world she grew up in and the Open Door Shelter in South Norwalk. What’s more, she's determined to help change it.
Walsh, 25, is working with the Open Door Shelter as it prepares for its Spring Gala, Safe at Home, on April 11 at Norwalk’s Continental Manor. The shelter’s mission to assist the homeless and help find long-term affordable, subsidized housing resonates with Walsh, who began working as a volunteer at the shelter last year.
“SoNo is such a nice, up-and-coming area,’’ Walsh said. “But if you just go down the road in the opposite direction, there’s a homeless shelter. Working with the Open Door Shelter is a great opportunity because I’m supporting a local cause, I know exactly where my support and efforts are going, and it’s so close to home.”
Walsh is helping the gala by soliciting donations, sponsors and auction items. Norwalk native Mo Vaughn, a former Major League baseball player with the Mets and Red Sox, will be the guest speaker. The Spring Gala will include dinner, music, and silent and live auctions.
“The great thing about the Gala is that all of the money raised goes to the shelter,’’ Walsh said.
Though her focus right now is on the Gala, Walsh also strives to raise general awareness about the shelter and homelessness in our local communities. “Any support is good support. There are tons of different, creative ways to donate,'' she said.
Walsh said her volunteerism stems from her parents. She grew fond of the Open Door Shelter after researching various charitable organizations in the area.
“It’s not the goal of the shelter to board people for days on end,’’ Walsh said. “It’s to provide them with the means to get back on their feet. There’s not enough subsidized and affordable housing in the area. Most of the people in the shelter, there’s nothing wrong with them. They just can’t afford housing.”
One of the shelter’s more unique programs is Hope Works, which helps people re-establish entry into the work force.
“It offers guidance to those seeking employment, whether they are looking for a full-time job or something more temporary like working at the local convenience store,’’ Walsh said. “It’s all about providing whatever help they need.”
The Open Door Shelter is open seven days a week, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. The 26-year-old facility serves 2,400 meals a day, includes 95 beds and also operates private residences for those individuals earning an income that cannot support affordable housing.
“Fairfield County is full of amazing communities with great people, great schools, great friends – you name it. But it’s easy to forget that just down the road there are some not-so-great areas where people are really struggling,'' she said.
"They just need a little help. So, that’s where my efforts to support the Open Door Shelter come in. I truly believe that this shelter – one of 21 in Connecticut – can change the lives of the people who need it most.”
To find more information on the Spring Gala, contact Open Door at 203-866-1057 or visit its website, www.opendoorshelter.org.