Needs Clearing House creates community partnerships

Needs clearing house Executive Director Phil Brous helps lead the coat drive to benefit Wilbur Peck Court residents. —Ken Borsuk

Needs clearing house Executive Director Phil Brous helps lead a coat drive to benefit Wilbur Peck Court residents.
—Ken Borsuk

Those who have approached The Needs Clearing House (NCH) for help are having their needs met — it’s that simple.

Beginning as a personal initiative between friends, NCH has grown into an exemplary nonprofit in a span of months. Founded by co-presidents Joseph Kaliko and State Rep. Fred Camillo (R-151), NCH works to pair organizations and individuals in need of assistance with parties that can provide the necessary support.

For some projects that can mean securing funding for a specific need, as was the case when NCH managed to find donors to fund a stipend for the 16 graduates of Greenwich High School’s Advancement through Individual Determination (AVID) program at the request of the Greenwich Alliance for Education. That program, developed by the alliance and now fully a part of the district, allows Greenwich High School students to be the first in their families to attend college and has been considered a huge success.

Other projects require a more direct, personal touch. NCH recently obtained a pair of orthopedic shoes for a diabetic person in need. So it’s not just one form of help that is provided. The goal is to meet the needs as best they can. At the heart of NCH is the idea that the community has the means and capacity to care for itself, and that by matching organizations and citizens together, they are capable of meeting any need, large or small.

Mr. Kaliko, a member of the state’s Bioscience Innovation Advisory Committee and former board member of the Cos Cob Fire Police, was inspired to create NCH after observing local non-profits struggling to raise necessary funds for their projects.

“My thought, when Joe brought it up to me, was ‘If we’re successful here, than why not the other 168 municipalities in Connecticut,’ because if every town and city had their own Needs Clearing House chapter their would be less reliance on the local government, but also on the state government, and there would be more funds available to do other things,” Mr. Camillo said, comparing NCH to the relief volunteer firefighters provide. “I’ve had a couple people in other places inquire about starting a chapter in their town, so we’re hoping that it will live well beyond our years.”

NCH’s method of operation falls distinctly in line with Mr. Camillo’s belief in creating partnerships between private and public entities to achieve change within the community. Past NCH projects have benefited the Byram Volunteer Fire Company and the Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol by supplying furniture and other items to the Byram firehouse, and creating a $10,000 line of credit for Cos Cob recruits to receive firefighter certification.

Last winter the NCH teamed with Greenwich resident Phil Brous for a coat drive to benefit residents of Wilbur Peck Court, a town-run low-income housing development. Close to 80 coats were collected in town, and Mr. Kaliko also worked with nearby hotels to get donations of bedsheets and linens to Wilbur Peck residents, something he had previously done for local organizations like Kids in Crisis and Neighbor to Neighbor.

The projects are not just meant to help Greenwich residents. More recently, NCH succeeded in helping disabled Bridgeport resident Andres Nunez acquire transport to a long-term care facility in Cleveland, Ohio.

Mr. Nunez, 38, was struck by a truck earlier this year and left paralyzed. After receiving a quote upwards of $6,000 for the cost of the trip, Nunez and his family looked to the public for aid. Mr. Kaliko contacted Accessible Mobility, a business specializing in transport vehicles for disabled persons, and was able to arrange a van, wheelchair and driver for Mr. Nunez, who completed his journey this past weekend.

Donations are still being accepted to help recoup $400 in gas money advanced to the family.

“Another thing I’ve learned is that people are incredibly generous. A lot of people just don’t know about the need,” Mr. Kaliko told the Post.

Another of NCH’s ongoing projects concerns a certified nursing assistant supporting three children, her mother and a three-month-old granddaughter. Threatened with the loss of her job if she could not obtain a car by Sept. 1, she turned to NCH. The organization was eventually able to donate a Toyota Camry to the family, but is still seeking contributions to pay tax, register and insure the car.

“The payback is huge, I don’t get any money but I get the satisfaction of seeing these things happen,” Mr. Kaliko said. “What I’m learning is that people overestimate their needs. You can usually solve a problem for way less than someone thinks it’s gonna take.”

The efforts by Mr. Kaliko, Mr. Camillo and others continue to need a boost from others in the community, though. All contributions to specific NCH projects are applied directly, even in lieu of the organization’s overhead charges. As NCH awaits approval for 501(c)(3) distinction from the IRS, overhead costs sit at $1,500. Those interested in donating can designate their gift for a certain project, or for the organization’s operational expenses. Volunteers are also needed to help manage individual projects.

For more information on The Needs Clearing House’s active and completed projects, visit its new website at TheNeedsClearingHouse.org.

“We’re trying to help charities so that they can help others,” Mr. Kaliko said. “We’re trying to help others by giving them a hand up, not a handout, and it’s been a successful formula.”

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