UR Community Cares uses grants to expand in CT

LITCHFIELD – With every grant awarded and every new partnership, Michelle Puzzo’s mission to serve Connecticut residents over 70 and adults with disabilities continues to grow.

Puzzo’s Manchester-based non-profit, UR Community Cares, was launched in 2019 to connect volunteers with residents who might need help around the house or just someone to talk to.

“There’s all these things that you or I might find easy, but it can be challenging,” Puzzo said. “That’s a big part of what people ask of us. people are lonely You want a companion. If they don’t have local family support it’s nice to have someone to visit during the week when sometimes they don’t have anyone.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this need, which Puzzo says continues to grow.

“Every day 10,000 people turn 65 [in the United States]’ Puzzo said. “We have been inundated with insurance companies looking for working capital. People are going home from the hospitals trying to stay on schedule with their follow-up appointments. It’s becoming more and more of a problem. Everything is going up [in cost]. There are all kinds of requests and the numbers are definitely increasing.”

The way the nonprofit works, Puzzo explained, is that interested volunteers register in their communities and are then matched with another individual who has requested assistance from UR Community Cares.

The demand is there, Puzzo said, adding that around 100 people are “in limbo” waiting to be matched with volunteers. The non-profit organization has around 1,300 registered people nationwide.

“We don’t have enough money to take everyone,” Puzzo said. “There is a huge organizational cost and time constraints to get all these requests done.”

That’s where grant funding comes in, Puzzo said. Most recently, the nonprofit received $3,000 from the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation to help it expand into Litchfield County.

“The funding allows us to grow,” said Puzzo. “As soon as we have that funding and can let residents know. It’s just an easy way for people to make a positive impact in their community.”

The biggest obstacle in Northwest Connecticut, she said, is territory expansion. But even having just one volunteer per city would change things.

“We are even looking for a volunteer from each city that would allow us to better serve the community,” Puzzo said. “That would be huge. We have health organizations that refer people and we try to support them.”

In September, the nonprofit received a $15,000 grant from the Community Chest of New Britain and Berlin to establish the program in that area of ​​the state.

“It helps us cover the registry — every background check, every driving history check, all insurance and website updates,” Puzzo said of how the fund is helping the organization. “We’re a small non-profit organization, but we’re like a tech company because we do all of this through the website. We hope to update our website to run the background checks through the site.”

UR Community Cares also recently partnered with West Hartford-based Sage Solutions, who provide care management and advocacy services to connect their volunteers with Sage Solutions customers.

“People just don’t get the support at home,” Puzzo said. “We hope that people want to help a neighbor. These can be people who are 80, 90 or 100 years old. They have mobility issues and it’s just difficult to even take out the trash. We’re just trying to get the word out so the residents of these cities can learn about us and our work.”