Meet Black Leaders Making an Impact in Fairfield County

Feb 22, 2022

Take action and make a difference this Black History Month by supporting Black Leaders. One way to capture this opportunity is to learn about and contribute to their organizations on Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

Fairfield County’s Giving Day, happening on February 24, 2022, is a 24-hour virtual fundraising drive that both helps local nonprofits raise funds and awareness, and makes it easy for people to “give where they live.”

To explore participating nonprofits, visit We also invite you to meet some of the inspiring leaders and organizations that are improving life in Fairfield County by reading some of their submissions, below.

Featured Photo, Top: St. Mark’s Daycare Center

Dr. Dwayne Smith, CEO
Housatonic Community College

The Housatonic Community College Foundation will be participating in Fairfield County’s Giving Day on February 24. This extraordinary virtual event has helped us raise important funding to support our scholars over the past few years with their emergency needs such as rent, groceries and other bills. Our campus leaders are making a difference by mentoring our scholars, especially our Black scholars, to transform their lives and communities. I am proud to be that example. My family was born into poverty, however, we leveraged higher education to change our trajectory. My vision is to inspire our most under-resourced scholars and help our communities thrive.

Giving Day is an important opportunity for us to shout out about our amazing community of learners, leaders and changemakers.

Learn how you can support the Housatonic Community College Foundation on Giving Day.

Nyisha Vaughn, Coordinator of Crisis & Housing Services
The Center for Family Justice

Nyisha Vaughn, The Center for Family Justice’s Coordinator of Crisis & Housing Services, has worked tirelessly during the Covid-19 pandemic to keep our clients impacted by domestic violence safe, secure, supported and sheltered.

Nyisha is resolutely client-centered, always putting the needs of adults and children impacted by domestic abuse above all else. She is kind, dynamic and truly focused on making sure our clients get the emotional and physical support they need, while living in a domestic violence shelter or moving onto safe, independent housing after their shelter stays.

After a long career leading efforts to provide safe housing and shelter to children at Kids in Crisis in Greenwich and later, with Family and Children’s Services, Nyisha came to CFJ during one of the most challenging times in our 127-year history as we worked to meet unprecedented demand to house people seeking shelter from the trauma of abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The United Nations has dubbed domestic violence “the second pandemic” of the Covid-19 era and we certainly have seen that manifested in the demand for safe shelter. At its peak in 2020/2021, CFJ experienced a 25 percent increase in demand for all domestic violence services. Our safe house was at 122 percent capacity. Subsequently, the demand for overflow hotel stays increased by a staggering 1400 percent.

Understandably, these demands for service during extraordinary times have put extreme pressure on our crisis housing team, which Nyisha leads, as we work to provide emergency shelter and also, find long-term safe housing situations for our clients who are fleeing abusive situations.

Through it all, Nyisha has taken a positive and dynamic lead to make sure our clients have received the comforts and protection of safe shelter we offer them and their children. She is constantly encouraging in her interactions with clients who come to us vulnerable and scared after experiencing significant trauma. Her positivity is infectious and makes her a strong leader for our diverse clients and staff.

She is undaunted by the many complications of providing safe housing to people in crisis and the challenges of helping them rebuild their lives after the trauma of abuse.

In other words, she’s a shining and positive example of a woman of color in a critical leadership position during these unprecedented times. We feel so fortunate to have Nyisha leading these efforts through her inspiring power of example.

Learn how you can support The Center for Family Justice on Giving Day.

Tia Reid, Behavioral Health Program Manager
LifeBridge Community Services

I’m Tia Reid, the Behavioral Health Program Manager with LifeBridge Community Services, where our mission is to partner with Bridgeport youth and families to build resilience. LifeBridge understands the uniqueness of those that are seeking treatment through our organization.

Giving Day is a great opportunity to be able to further support our mission of building resilience and working with individuals that are able to relate to individuals that look like them. We are honored and thrilled to be able to be a participant in this amazing opportunity to further support those individuals that are most greatly impacted.

Learn how you can support LifeBridge Community Services on Giving Day.

Carolyn Vermont, CEO
Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County

I’m Carolyn Vermont, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County. We seek to build community and to improve lives by partnering with low-income families, community volunteers and donors to build decent and affordable homes in stable and welcoming neighborhoods.

The Black leaders at Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County collaborate with the greater community through Habitat International’s Advancing Black Home Ownership Program. On this Fairfield County Giving Day, we are raising funds towards building our 16th Women Build home. Women Build is Habitat’s Coastal Fairfield county’s program to engage and empower women in our work.

The future homeowner of this home, Cindy, is a mother of two young girls and the caretaker of her mother, who is in need of a handicapped-accessible home. When you donate to our Fairfield County Giving Day campaign, you will help Cindy and her family make the dream of a decent, stable home a reality.

Learn how you can support Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County on Giving Day.

Adrienne Parkmond, COO
The WorkPlace, Bridgeport CT

My name is Adrienne Parkmond, and I serve as Chief Operating Officer of The WorkPlace, headquartered in Bridgeport, CT. Our mission is to develop a well-educated, well-trained and self-sufficient workforce that can competently compete in today’s changing global marketplace.

At The WorkPlace, equity is our centerpiece, and everyone is invited to our table. As a Black leader at The WorkPlace, I know I have the inherent responsibility to ensure that those that are starting a career journey, moving along a career pathway or transitioning to a new career ladder, regardless of their current or past circumstances, has the opportunity to do so.

Your contributions are vital to ensuring that Fairfield County residents have the opportunity to be prepared for the current and future job opportunities that are coming our way. Working together we can ensure that our workforce is prepared and that individuals have the opportunity to embark upon the America promised to all of us.

Learn how you can support The WorkPlace on Giving Day.

Denise L. Clemons, Executive Director
St. Mark’s Daycare Center

It gives me great pleasure to return to a community that was essential to developing my foundation and growth to become a successful, educated, professional female African American.

St. Mark’s Daycare Center is entering its 54th year and under my leadership is initiating a restart to provide educational excellence in a respectful and positive learning environment offering diverse opportunities for all students. This journey will ensure that our community leaders are at the forefront as we provide the best educational opportunities for all of our children!

With educational objectives and COVID-related issues evolving at a faster pace than our funds can sometimes handle, we are enlisting the support of the Fairfield County Giving Day Team to help us replace some needed materials. These materials will be utilized to ensure that when our children leave the St. Mark’s Daycare Center, they will be well equipped for the world of Kindergarten!

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

Faith Harrison-Villegas, Executive Director
Bridgeport Public Education Fund

The mission of the Bridgeport Public Education Fund is to mentor youth for success in college, careers, and life. This mission is dear to me as a first-generation college graduate.

Knowing the sacrifices of previous generations, I feel it is my duty and honor to prepare the next generation. Without their sacrifices, we would not have the opportunities we have today.

Learn how you can support Bridgeport Public Education Fund on Giving Day.

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2 in our series spotlighting some of the Black leaders and organizations taking part in Giving Day on February 24, 2022! To see more stories as they are shared, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram or join our email list.