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July 12, 2010 Nonprofit Notebook

Phish Donation Puts Gift Of Love On Map

Most of the people that Gifts of Love helps have jobs. The problem is they don’t earn enough income to meet their basic needs.

In 1989, Gifts of Love began as a nonprofit in Simsbury. Today, it is helping over 10,000 people a year with everything from bills to food supplies. Half of its clients come from Hartford, 15 percent are from New Britain and the rest reside all over Central Connecticut including the Farmington River Valley area, where executive director, Diana Goode, says she has seen an increase in need.

“More people than ever are coming in from the valley. A lot of people from suburbs don’t know where to turn,” Goode noted.

Since Gifts of Love is a grassroots nonprofit agency operating on a slim $350,000 a year budget, it’s forced to think creatively when it comes to raising enough funds to meet its growing needs. Goode relies on her personal relationships within the community and her skills in grant writing to meet her costs.

Occasionally, she gets a burst of good fortune. Most recently, that came in the form of a large donation from the internationally acclaimed band, Phish.

“Every town Phish plays in, they work with a local nonprofit. I have no idea how they picked us. I thought I was being punked at first,” said Goode of when she received the phone call from Phish’s tour manager. “(Phish) looks at an agency’s budget and also looks to see if the agency received United Way Funding, which we don’t. They’re really looking for grass roots organizations.”

Goode said the band was also intrigued by Gifts of Love’s recent partnership with a local Simsbury farm.

“Out of this economic crisis is going to become a health crisis; people are eating low quality food. We want people to be eating as healthy as possible even in this economic time,” Goode said.

She expects to receive a large check from Phish as soon as its summer concert tour winds down. An added benefit in the meantime, she says, has been increased exposure of her organization, which she notes “has been huge.” Goode was able to have a booth at the Phish shows in Hartford June 17 and 18. She handed out many brochures, had many Facebook hits and says she is thankful that Phish Tweeted about her organization.

“Our $350,000 budget comes from events, corporate and private foundation grants, individual giving campaigns, and I basically cross my fingers a lot,” Goode said. “We don’t get government grants. I would be open to it, but I’m too paranoid to rely on it too heavily. Lots of nonprofits relying on federal money are having huge layoffs.”

Goode says she considers herself lucky that the community sees the need for her services.

“We’re basically a food pantry. People understand that no one is immune anymore,” she said.

Homeless Veterans Get Helping Hand

In East Hartford, a new program designed to break the cycle of continued homelessness among military veterans has opened with the aid of a $250,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. Veterans Crossing, a 12-room transitional rooming house, operated by the Community Renewal Team of Hartford, was dedicated June 2, with five veterans already living at the facility. The Veterans Administration estimates one-third of homeless adults have served in the military.

AlphaGraphics Fights Hunger

To fight hunger in the U.S., AlphaGraphics, a print, graphics and marketing communications provider, has launched its second annual national food drive campaign. "AlphaGraphics Fights Hunger" runs throughout the entire month of July. Participating AlphaGraphics locations will collect non-perishable foods for shelters or other organizations in their communities.

Joanna Smiley writes the weekly Nonprofit Notebook column. Reach her at

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