Proyecto Nueva Vida (Project New Life)Newsletter number 3
The CO-OP Page
news and opportunities
CO-OP Center Hires New Case Manager
Terral (Terry) A. Hardy became the newest employee of The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport when he was hired effective May 1, 2012. Terry serves as CO-OP Center 's Case Manager in charge of parole clients.
Terry comes to CO-OP Center after a successful 23-year career as a Greenwich police officer. In his interview process, he stated that knowing what he had learned as a police officer helped his decision to assist those less fortunate to stay out of prison. His former captain characterized him as a loyal, hard-working officer with excellent judgment and great interpersonal skills.
In addition, Terry has recently been inducted into the Alpha Chi Honor Society at Post University , Waterbury where he is pursuing a Master's Degree in Secondary Education. “It's where I feel I can make a bigger impact on some of these young minds, “ Terry said.
In the short time he has been at The Council, Terry has demonstrated an ease working with parole officers and their parolees who are referred to him for support services, such as identification, transportation, and material assistance. He has also brought his teamwork skills as a police officer to the other CO-OP Center staff. We are happy to have him as part of The Council of Churches' family.
Terral Hardy , CO-OP Center Case Manager, with his certificate of induction into the Alpha Chi Honor Society on May 4, 2012.)
SHELTON UMC COLLECTS ESSENTIALS FOR CO-OP CLIENTS
Rev. Heather Sinclair, pastor of United Methodist Church, Shelton, and Dan Braccio, Program Director, CO-OP Center, stand in front of hygiene supplies that were collected at UMC Shelton during March 2012.
Pastor Sinclair conducted the donation drive over four Sundays. A different hygiene product was collected each week, (toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, soap). Pastor Sinclair said that it was easy to organize the collection because her congregation is used to donating food items for their pantry. Boxes for the items were left in the narthex each weekend. Teens contributed by keeping track of the number of hygiene items donated. A fifth Sunday, Palm Sunday, was designated for those who had forgotten to bring in an item previously. A new men’s overcoat was also donated.
Pastor Sinclair mentioned that this project, which will benefit CO-OP Center clients who are returning to the community from incarceration, had one of her parishioners reflecting on the fate of Barabbas who was released by Pontius Pilate. Our “Easter story” indeed helps us understand in profound and new ways the meaning of “second chances.”
We are very grateful to all of the members of UMC Shelton for their generous donation of hygiene supplies for our CO-OP Center program during the month of March. If your church also would like to collect hygiene supplies during a designated month, please contact Dan Braccio at firstname.lastname@example.org , or 203 367-8441 x 231.
CCGB program featured in "RELEASE"
click below to read
A Christmas Gift!
Gifts come in all size packages and, most often, are surprises. Enrique Rivera is one such gift. A native of Ponce , Puerto Rico, Enrique worked in Philadelphia for 20 years in both for-profit and not-for-profit companies. His passion, as he says, is teaching. In November 2011, Enrique found his way to Bridgeport and specifically to Fr. Jose Diaz and his East Side church, St. Luke’s/ St. Paul ’s. Fr. Diaz referred Enrique to CO-OP Center because he knew of our Computer Technology Learning Center (TLC). After a good discussion, it was clear to CO-OP’s director, Dan Braccio, how to receive and use this gift. Enrique taught our first Introduction to Computers course IN SPANISH to six students in December. More courses are planned for the new year. Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo!
Walmart and CO-OP Center Collaborate for the Holidays
On Thursday, December 1, 2011 Walmart Stores, Inc. #3547 located in Norwalk , CT donated more than five dozen toys to our CO-OP Center clients who have children and cannot afford gifts for the holiday season. Walmart representatives Maxine Edwards, Store Manager, and Latavia Crowder, Personnel Manager, gave a warm welcome to CO-OP staff Paula Moody, Case Manager (pictured), and Richetta Joyner, Administrative Assistant. Further, Walmart understands the needs of ex-offenders to prepare for and maintain employment, so they are willing to assist CO-OP Center with quarterly donations of health and beauty products. Many thanks to Walmart for their generosity this season!
DONATE A COAT
CO-OP CENTER COULD USE YOUR HELP IN DECEMBER IN COLLECTING USED WINTER COATS FOR OUR CLIENTS.
CAN YOUR CHURCH COLLECT 10 USED COATS FOR US TO GIVE AWAY TO MEN OR WOMEN RETURNING TO THE COMMUNITY?
IF YOUR CHURCH WOULD LIKE TO HELP IN THIS WAY, PLEASE CONTACT DAN BRACCIO AT 203 367-8441 X 231 or
~We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Anthony Smith on his unexpected death on March 30, 2012. May God comfort the bereaved.~
Anthony Smith Receives Client Recognition Award
At the 10/6/11 Board of Directors’ meeting, CO-OP Center Program Director Dan Braccio honored Anthony Smith with the annual CO-OP Client Recognition Award. CO-OP Center Case Manager, Paula Britt Moody presented the award to Mr. Smith for his success in reaching several critical benchmarks in his reentry process.
Anthony Smith is a thirty-one year old African American male who is currently a resident of the Isaiah 61:1, Inc. halfway house. Anthony received support services from Mrs. Moody which included identification, transportation and clothing assistance, and an employment referral since becoming a CO-OP Center client in May 2011.
As a CO-OP Center client, Anthony initially obtained temporary employment with Connecticut Distributors, and has now received permanent positions with EHE Metal Services and the Holiday Inn of Bridgeport. Anthony is also enrolled at Housatonic Community College and is pursuing a Human Services degree.
During Anthony’s transition from incarceration to the community, he has managed to work hard, stay positive and save a substantial amount of money within four months.
According to Isaiah 61:1 Counselor Governor Jefferson, who also attended the award ceremony , “Anthony is dedicated, faithful, hardworking and focused on his goal to take care of himself, his family, and to never return to prison”.
Anthony Smith’s success is a great example of the effectiveness of community agency collaboration, as well as his own individual determination to become self-sufficient.
If you would like to help someone like Anthony Smith become a productive, self-sufficient member of society, please contact Dan Braccio at 203 367-8441 x 231 or email@example.com
CO-OP Center’s Learn and Earn Program Recognizes Achievement
CO-OP Center received a grant this summer from the Watkinson Prisoners’ Aid Society of West Hartford to support its burgeoning GED preparation program.
The grant allowed CO-OP Center Program Director Dan Braccio to create the Learn and Earn project, an incentive program that recognizes individual achievement. “We are not paying students to come to school,” Braccio said. “This program sets standards that need to be met. Upon achieving those goals, students are given a small monetary incentive to keep them engaged with the GED preparation process.”
Charles Rosenthal, the GED instructor, developed the rewards benchmarks that students need to achieve. There are incentives for attendance at 30 and 100 hours and for each additional 50 hours above the first 100 hours. Also, there are incentives for students who increase their CASAS scores by a full level. CASAS, Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems, is a national nonprofit organization that focuses on assessment and curriculum development of basic skills for youth and adults. CASAS is used by federal and state government agencies, business and industry, community colleges, education and training providers, correctional facilities, and technical programs.
“For most of our students, advancing from one CASAS level to the next is a big accomplishment,” said Charles Rosenthal. Dan Braccio said, “It happens most often that a student who begins their GED preparation will leave as soon as part-time employment comes along. This is usually short lived and really sets them back. Having an incentive program creates a way to keep them focused.”
The program, now in its third month, seems to be working. More students have attended GED classes, which meet four times a week, more regularly. Several students receive Learn and Earn rewards each month which are given out on the first Friday of the month. Brian Kleusner (pictured here) received the top Learn and Earn incentive when he successfully passed his GED exam in September 2011.
Charles Rosenthal sees continued progress in the students’ math and reading scores. Moreover, he sees students taking on an improved attitude towards learning. This is important as some of the students have “a very long road ahead of them”, he said.
The GED program at CO-OP Center , which is funded by a grant obtained by Career Resources, Inc., is the only GED preparation program specifically for former offenders funded by the state Department of Education.
If you would like to make a contribution to our Learn and Earn project, or if you have several hours per week to volunteer as a math or reading aide to Mr. Rosenthal, please contact Dan Braccio at 203 367-8441 x 231 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Art from Prison 2011 a
fifth annual Art from Prison Auction
was its best ever! Held at the
beautiful Gallery 305 K, owned by
Council of Churches’ Board members
Pedro Wasmer and Mark Tillinger, the
closing night of the auction on
Friday, March 25 saw almost 100
people enjoy food, conversation, and
incredible art work.
Art from Prison Bidders enjoy a
spirited closing night of the 2011
Auction. Standing right, Jeffrey
Greene, Prison Arts Program Manager;
standing left, Eileen Walsh, Curator
of Gallery 305 K.
annual auction, which combined art
and non-art items to bid on, brought
in a record $3,400 for CO-OP
Center’s College Scholarship program
at Housatonic Community College. In
addition to the art work, bidders
won an assortment of generously
donated prizes including a spring
flower shopping spree at Michael’s
Greenhouses in Cheshire; a Sail on
the Sound donated by John Santa; and
a Family Portrait donated by noted
Southport photographer, Hugh Smith.
All of the art
work, donated by artists who have
participated in Community Partners
in Action’s Prison Arts Program, was
sold prior to the closing or by
anxious bidders that night. We are
indebted to Prison Arts Program
Manager, Jeffrey Greene, for
collecting 29 unique art and
sculpture works for this auction.
Too (Crossing Over) a painting
by Vincent Nardone garnered the
highest bid of $190. Painted in
acrylics on the cover of a copy of
Ernest Hemmingway’s book “In Harm’s
Way”, the painting bore this
inscription on the reverse side,
“Let me say, ‘God Bless!’ Since I
can’t be there, whoever purchases
this small piece work has my THANKS
AND GRATITUDE. Your kindness will
help those less fortunate to have a
new start in life. V. Nardone,
1/25/11. John 3:16” Mr. Nardone,
who has had his art work displayed
at the American Visionary Museum in
Baltimore, MD, has donated a piece
of his artwork in each of the five
Art from Prison exhibits.
Bodt, President/CEO of
The Council of Churches
enjoys the auction with Carol
Galloway and Council Board
Chairman, Carl John son.
thanks for an exceptional evening
goes to Carrie Watson, Chef at
United Congregational Church,
Bridgeport for an exceptional menu
of delicious appetizers; Eileen
Walsh, curator of the Gallery 305 K
for her hospitality; and to all of
the artists who contributed their
art knowing that the proceeds would
help those on the “outside.”
If you would
like to make a contribution to CO-OP
Center’s College Scholarship Fund,
please click on the Just Give link
on the CCGB homepage, or call Patty
Jensen at 203 334-1121 x 243 or
Artist Jay Cusano (right) talks with an
Gallery 305 K co-owner, Pedro Wasmer,
talks with Ellen Davis, GE Video
Productions, in front of Vincent
Nardone’s Going Home Too
an essay by ColinYoung
talk about wanting to have a second
chance, but when it’s given to them
they don’t take advantage of it. My
chance was given to me after doing 2
½ years in prison, and I am taking
full advantage of it. One, I am now
attending Housatonic Community
College for general studies. Second,
I participate in a drug program at
Liberation doing out-patient classes
so I can remain focused and clean.
Last, I’m not working at this
moment, but I’m out there every day
searching for a job. It hasn’t been
easy and it is even discouraging,
yet I still keep trying and I have
faith that someone will take a
chance on hiring me.
school is something I’ve always
wanted to do. However, I never
furthered my education because I was
too busy going down the wrong path.
When I was released from prison, I
was a new man with a new attitude
and new mind set. I found this
opportunity through my parole
office, Gladys Marquez, who referred
me to the CO-OP Center program. I
then met with Dan Braccio, the
program director, to discuss what
new opportunities CO-OP Center had
to offer me. That’s when I was then
offered to apply for a partial
scholarship at Housatonic Community
College. I was happy to have been
given a second chance and quickly
completed my application.
I also attend a
drug abuse prevention program at
Liberation Program. That has helped
me find new and positive ways to
better myself. Not only has the
program helped me with my way of
thinking, they have also helped me
with basic needs. The voucher that
the program offered me was a big
step to getting me back on my feet.
I’m now involved in a relapse
prevention class once a week which
gives me the tools that I need to
My next step is
to find a job. I haven’t had any
luck with that so far. I get up
every morning and work for a good
part of the day looking for work. No
matter how hard it is, I keep
trying. This is why good things are
happening to me. You get what you
put in. Everything you want may not
come at once, but as long as you
keep going for it, you will get what
you want because patience is a
church or business is looking to
hire someone, please consider hiring
Colin Young. For more information,
please contact Dan Braccio at