Celebrating Everyday Heroes During Black History Month 2023: Part II

Feb 21, 2023

For Black History Month, we invited organizations participating in Fairfield County’s Giving Day to celebrate contributions by their Black colleagues and amplify the work of these everyday heroes who are creating a better future for our community. Thirteen organizations submitted 23 entries highlighting their staff and the contributions they make to the mission of their nonprofits – and each organization is entered to win one of four $500 Giving Day prizes for their participation.

We hope the stories below (and the ones previously shared in Part One of this series) inspire your interest to learn more about these and other nonprofits participating in Giving Day this Thursday, February 23, 2023. This 24-hour virtual event raises much-needed funds to help our community’s nonprofits build capacity. Every donation – the majority of which are less than $100 – goes directly to programs and services that strengthen and enrich life in Fairfield County.

In addition to the everyday heroes highlighted below, we invite you learn more about the almost 400 nonprofits participating in Giving Day by visiting FCGives.org – and be inspired to “give where you live.”


LifeBridge Community Services

Linda Dunn, Director of Human Resources
LifeBridge Community Services
I am the Human Resources Director here at LifeBridge Community Services. For over 175 years, LifeBridge has served the Greater Bridgeport community. We take pride in our history, as well as our local expertise. We provide a wide array of behavioral health services, youth programming through our Urban Scholars program, and we offer our clients the opportunity to shop free of charge once a month in our Community Closet for their everyday needs. We believe in the unlimited potential of every client we serve, and we aim to nurture personal dignity and grace.

The same extends to our diverse team of professionals. In all of our interactions, whether it be with clients, colleagues or in the community, we strive to be respectful, transparent, collaborative, deliberate and impactful. Our staff deeply cares about our mission, and for each other.

Although we all know that staff retention is not exciting and is a struggle in society today, it is an honor to support the staff here at LifeBridge and to build the dynamic, talented, dedicated team that we have here.
Thank you, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, for this opportunity to raise funds and the visibility to an innovative organization that lifts their clients and lifts each other.

When I was four years old, my mother taught me my first solo. The words to the song go something like this: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can spread love’s message that the Master taught, then my living will not be in vain.”

That is what I believe LifeBridge is all about: partnering with individuals, youth and families to improve their wellbeing, to spread love, to show love, to strengthen their resilience and to create a brighter future. So if you’re looking for an organization that empowers and honors its staff and stands behind its mission of creating a brighter future for all, then LifeBridge is the place you want to work and LifeBridge is the place you want to support.


Phadette McRae, Administrative Assistant
LifeBridge Community Services
My name is Phadette McRae, and I am the Administrative Assistant for LifeBridge Community Services in Bridgeport, CT. It is so fulfilling to work within an organization that really does strive to fulfill their mission to partner with individuals, youths and families to improve their wellbeing, to strengthen their resilience and really create a brighter future. They have been doing that for over 175 years, and that is so awesome.

One of the great things about my position is that I get to contribute and participate in projects across the organization and see the great work that they’re doing. One of the things that we’re planning right now is our Beloved Community event. These themed events are based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s Principles of Nonviolence; and there are over four events, starting with our annual Giving Day. Giving Day funds are so important, because they help us run our programs and allow us greater visibility

The other great thing about LifeBridge is that it pays attention to what is going on in the community, and worldwide. For example, we are now designated as an Outpatient Urban Trauma Center, and that is fantastic. Our clinicians have been specifically trained to address the psychological effects of racial and urban trauma, and that is so important right now.

It’s so wonderful to be part of this organization. Please consider contributing to Giving Day! You really will support your community, and support us.

And, please consider coming out to our first kickoff for our Beloved Community events on April 27th, Created from the HeART. Keep a lookout for us – we hope you’ll come.


Erika Saucier, Youth Director & Community Liaison
LifeBridge Community Services
My name is Erika Saucier and I am the Youth Director and Community Liaison of LifeBridge Community Services. For over 175 years, LifeBridge has served the greater Bridgeport community. We take pride in our history and local expertise. Our mission is to partner with individuals, youth, and families to improve well-being, strengthen resilience, and create a brighter future.

As the Youth Director I oversee the Urban Scholars Program, which is our youth program serving Bridgeport middle school students. We offer year-round programming which is free. The program builds youth’s resilience through interaction in activities with supportive peers and adult mentors, and access to academic support – each strengthening youth’s academic, social and emotional well-being. Our program is unique because kids are excited about attending and our staff has a passion for what they do. When willingness and passion are combined the results are top-notch. Scholars are able to express and explore specialties and clubs all year long.

In addition to academic enrichment, the scholars enjoy programs like music instruction, robotics, and art. This year, scholars will design and paint a mural in Bridgeport based on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Six Principles of Nonviolence. Please join us at the unveiling this summer!

My kids are amazing and they have built great relationships with the staff. Scholars are capable to accomplish, great and are great assets to their community. We encourage leadership and life skills. I love being a Youth Director because it gives me a chance to give back, be active in the community and build strong relationships with future youth who have the willingness to be leaders, directors, teachers, and presidents.

The funding raised through Fairfield County’s Giving Day helps to allow us to offer free year-round programming and to purchase everyday needs like laptops, art supplies, and robotic kits. I thank everyone for their support of our work. Please visit our website for upcoming events and applications for our After School and Summer Programs.


Tonya Williams, Urban Trauma Clinician
LifeBridge Community Services
My name is Tonya Williams. I have a Master’s in Education, with a concentration in Mental Health Counseling. I am the Urban Trauma Clinician at LifeBridge Community Services. For over 175 years, LifeBridge has served the Greater Bridgeport community. We take pride in our history and our local expertise. Our mission is to partner with individuals, youth and families to improve wellbeing, strengthen resilience and create a brighter future.

LifeBridge differs from organizations offering similar services due to our designation through the State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) as an Outpatient Urban Trauma Center. Urban Trauma is not a label or a condition, but instead, a framework to identify, reclaim and heal from structural racism.

My primary role at LifeBridge is to become certified in Urban Trauma® through Dr. (Maysa) Akbar’s training. Becoming certified in Urban Trauma has enlightened me that trauma can be biological, environmental, and in urban city educational systems. Dr. Akbar explains in detail how people of color have been dealing with racism since slavery. Then she explains the six characteristics of how they relate to urban trauma. This training will allow me to help people of color identify their triggers and implement coping skills, along with homework, so that I can start their healing process to help them live a productive life.

I’m grateful for LifeBridge’s participation in Fairfield County’s Giving Day, not only to raise much-needed funds for our programs, but to raise awareness of racial equity and racial healing.

Learn how you can support LifeBridge Community Services on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

Norwalk ACTS

Rhea Henry, Workforce Development Coordinator
Norwalk ACTS
Rhea works on behalf of the City of Norwalk to increase communication, collaboration, and alignment among the stakeholders in Norwalk’s workforce development ecosystem. Since Rhea started in September 2022, she has convened a workforce development steering committee, launched a workforce development e-newsletter, and has represented the interests of Norwalk in regional and statewide initiatives.

Rhea has facilitated countless connections between stakeholders in Norwalk to ensure we are not working in silos. Her energy and enthusiasm for this work is contagious!

~ Submitted by Jennifer Barahona, CEO of Norwalk ACTS

Learn how you can support Norwalk ACTS on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

PT Partners

Tamika Alston, Trumbull Gardens Resident Leader
PT Partners
Even though she has lived in Trumbull Gardens only three years, Tamika is an asset to her community. She focuses on building community through connecting with neighborhood kids and their families.

Tamika believes that having strong relationships with her neighbors helps her support them through needed mediation and conflict resolution. She gets to know her neighbors by helping with our after school snack program or distributing donations from Panera and more.

She can be found holding down a table, knocking on somebody’s door, passing out flyers, or evolving her leadership through trainings like Race Forward or local community meetings like the Bridgeport Anti-Racism Collective.


Shaurice Bacon, Executive Committee Co-Chair & Resident Leader
PT Partners
Shaurice Bacon has been at PT Partners since the beginning. Shaurice gives a voice to the community when people want to hold back their voice. She holds many leadership roles in the community including Resident Council Vice President, board member of the Black Rock NRZ, member of the Alliance Parent Policy Council, a member of the NAACP, Unrig Bridgeport Coalition and more. In her role as a member of the PT Partners Anti-Oppression Task Force, she makes sure residents are aware of their rights and that those in power are accountable to those contracts and agreements.

Her advocacy work includes the return of the Gary Crooks Community Center to PT residents and the preservation of his legacy. Gary Crooks, an 8-year-old PT Barnum resident, tragically drowned due to WPCA negligence in 1970. A community center was erected in 1974 in his memory, but has since been re-claimed by the housing authority.

Shaurice organizes with the Task Force on Resident representation through the upgrade to the WPCA Sewer Treatment Plant, to ensure the community never experiences a devastating loss like that of Gary Crooks again. She has also worked on a Safety Petition recently submitted to HUD and other issues impacting low-income public housing residents stemming from systemic violence and oppression.


Dione Dwyer, Systems Change Support & Executive Committee Co-Chair
PT Partners
Dione has been part of PT Partners since its first iteration in 2014. Dione has been present and active with many community partners and coalitions – representing resident power and making sure that residents have access to resources and partners are truly connected to the people.

Some of those tables include the RAB Board, Unrig Bridgeport, Bridgeport Anti-Racism Collective, Housing Equity Coalition (including Unite CT, Right to Counsel & Cap the Rent CT). Dione stays present where the policies and procedures are being created and changed to ensure that Bridgeport public housing residents are not just part of the conversation, but part of the process.


Di-Zett Hamilton, Neighborhood Relations Support &
Trumbull Gardens Resident Leader,
PT Partners
Di-Zett Hamilton is a four-year resident of Trumbull Gardens, and has been working with PT Partners for two years. During that time she has brought many wonderful resources to the community including the after-school snack program, food distributions, coat drives and a clothing closet, financial planning workshops and more. Di-Zett also mobilized the community through a petition that was submitted to HUD regarding mold, inadequate parking and lighting, lack of police presence and other safety concerns.

Di-Zett has recently stepped into the role of Neighborhood Relations Support, where she will support public housing residents with acute issues who need outside resources. PT Partners focuses on the dismantling of systemic oppression, but in the meantime we need support to the everyday crises that people in low-income public housing experience. Di-Zett’s role bridges the gap between our long game and the immediate needs of the community.


April Ward, Anti-Oppression Task Force Member & Building Captain
PT Partners
April Ward is a member of our Anti-Oppression Task Force and a PT Barnum Building Captain. As Building Captain, she focuses on getting to know all of the residents in her building, about 20 apartments total. She builds relationships with her neighbors by making sure they receive flyers and important community information. She also learns about the needs of her neighbors and advocates on their behalf to PT leadership and Resident Council.

April lives in the building closest to the WPCA treatment plant and knows the impact of environmental racism firsthand. She and the other residents in her building are subject to the smells, fumes and noise pollution that frequently occurs from the plant and other industry on Bostwick Ave.

As a Task Force Member, April organizes in PT Partners’ campaign for residents to be at the table through the entire process and design of the pending WPCA plant upgrade. April advocates for fresh air, green spaces, and a clean community no longer polluted by the plants and industries that should never have been built in a residential community.


January Wilson, Development Consultant
PT Partners
January has been a key member of PT Partners’ grant writing and development team for nearly four years. She brings several years of grant writing experience to PT Partners with organizations like The Salvation Army and FINCA.

Since her time with PT Partners, January has been successful in turning the 2019 operational budget level of $70,000 to more than $340,000 today. She is a valued member of the team, helping to make Resident Leaders’ project plans possible.

Learn how you can support PT Partners on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.


SilverSource advances the dignity, independence, and quality of life of older adults by providing supportive services to those in need and guidance to families, and by engaging in community partnerships and advocating for sound public policies.

We are raising funds through Fairfield County’s Giving Day to help to provide a safety net to older residents in need in Stamford. We assist seniors in keeping a roof over their heads, with the heat and lights on, food on the table and the medical care they need. This includes assistance with prescription costs and medical transportation services.

With the cost of living increasing and many older adults living on a very limited income, we have found the need of providing resources to seniors for basic necessities growing. These funds will make a direct impact for our clients daily.

~ Submitted by Robin Wexler, Communications & Event Manager

Brian Brinkley, Medical Transportation Driver
Brian is a trusted and revered member of the SilverSource staff. For the past 14 years, he has driven SilverSource clients to their medical appointments and back home throughout Stamford – many of whom need extra assistance since they use wheelchairs or walkers. He ensures they get to these appointments safely with kindness and care.

~ Submitted by Robin Wexler, Communications & Event Manager

Reverend Fred Ogletree, Outreach Coordinator
Reverend Ogletree has served the Stamford community for more than 30 years. He runs outreach support groups at several affordable senior housing sites in Stamford bringing comfort and support to older adults in need and/or crisis. His is an adored figure in the Stamford community, and his gentle and kind spirit are deeply appreciated by all who know him.

~ Submitted by Robin Wexler, Communications & Event Manager

Learn how you can support SilverSource on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

St. Mark’s Daycare

Juanita Perry, Head Teacher
St. Mark’s Daycare
Ms. Juanita Perry has been an employee of St. Mark’s Daycare Center for fourteen years. She holds a B.S. in Child Studies from Post University.

During her tenure at St. Mark’s Daycare, she has worked with children in the Pre-School and Toddler classrooms. As the new Head Teacher, she has been visible in the classrooms and provides opportunities for staff to gain her knowledge, experience and compassion for Early Childhood. Due to her spirited nature and extensive knowledge of Early Childhood Education curriculum, she has gained the respect of the staff.

She has also been essential in assisting the Director to create diverse curriculum through project based learning activities; while also, incorporating technology skills for staff and students. The technology skills also support the Language and Literacy Domain objectives of the CT Office of Early Childhood.

Ms. Perry has always illustrated a yeoman’s service to the students, staff and parents of St. Mark’s Daycare Center. During Black History Month, it is very befitting that she is recognized for her service to children. It is her professionalism and commitment to children that makes the St. Mark’s Community great!

~ Submitted by Denise L. Clemons, Executive Director

Learn how you can support St. Mark’s Daycare Center on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

Youth Business Initiative

Dajuan Wiggins, Founder, CEO & Executive Director
Youth Business Initiative
This picture was taken by a student who graduated from our program and was interning with our organization. I chose this photo because it is a perfect representation of how we genuinely are. I believe it perfectly captured the moment of joy we feel when we help our youth, especially our Black kids. This picture shows four Black staff members and volunteers of the community who are proud to be where they are today, and happy to be paying it forward for the next generations after us. We stand together as a team and with our Black brother guiding us in front we will make our community better, one step at a time.

Not only is Dajuan dedicated to helping the youth in school, he is also dedicated to showing them about financial literacy and providing them with tools and resources to be able to get ahead by doing events such as this one, YBI Shark Tank event, where five high school teams presented their business ideas in front of judges and the winning team received a cash prize. Dajuan fundraised for this prize and the winning team left with money to start towards their business. You can see by the smiles on their faces that they were happy and Dajuan was very proud of them.

This is a representation of the strong, resilient Black leaders who make our organization what it is today. The proud bright smiles on our faces show the exact emotion we feel when we help our youth. We love what we do and will continue to help serve our community and make it a better place one step at a time, with smiles on our faces.

~ Submitted by Yenesis Brito, Program Coordinator

Learn how you can support Youth Business Initiative on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

Don’t miss Part 1 of our Black History Month series spotlighting everyday heroes whose nonprofit organizations are taking part in Fairfield County’s Giving Day on February 23, 2023. Want to see inspiring stories as they are shared? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram or join our email list.


Thank you to our champion sponsor Bank of America for a full decade of support for this amazing annual day of philanthropy which invites Fairfield County to come together and “give where you live.” Since launching in 2014, Fairfield County’s Giving Day has raised more than $13.75 million for local nonprofits. Learn more.