NORWALK, Conn. -- A grant from the state has allowed Norwalk's STAR Inc. to purchase 14 minivans to transport individuals with developmental disabilities, the organization announced Tuesday, July 8.
STAR received a $342,600 Nonprofit Grant Award, which it used to buy the 2014 Honda Odysseys.
"It's a godsend," said Katie Banzhaf, executive director of STAR. "Money is so tight, as we all know. Our funding has not increased and our operating costs continue to go up. This capital grant is a significant help to us."
STAR serves nearly 700 people in Fairfield County, providing services such as intervention therapies, advocacy, at-home support, recreation, employment training and placement, and day programs. The vans will be used for transportation to jobs, home, medical appointments and activities throughout the county.
Twelve of the Odysseys were purchased from Honda of Westport. Honda of Westport President Evan Perkins said they come with a lot of safety features such as rearview cameras and airbags.
"It's a local organization that we're really proud to be a sponsor of. They provide a great service to the community," Perkins said.
STAR currently transports about 200 people per day, and its current vans have over 100,000 miles on them. Banzhaf said the new vans will not only provide greater safety, but will also save the organization money on fuel and maintenance costs.
"STAR is a nonprofit that is so valuable to Norwalk and the rest of Fairfield County," said state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk). "I'm proud that the state was able to help provide this grant for them."
It was a competitive grant, said State Rep. Chris Perone (D-Conn). That STAR was able to secure so much funding speaks to the strength of the organization, he said.
"STAR is committed to serving people here the best that they know how to, and this is a real testament to that," Perone said.