Community Connections: 12/14 Resource Guide Fosters Local Collaboration

Last November, freelance writer and communications consultant Sharon L. Cohen released Newtown: Moving Forward — A Community Faces the Future After Adversity. The book, which described and highlighted approximately 75 organizations that were created in the aftermath of 12/14, had three purposes.

It was to serve, Ms Cohen said, as a historic document of the massive volunteer and nonprofit efforts that occurred within town in response to the shooting on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of six women and 20 children; it was to increase awareness of the different organizations in order to promote collaboration, while also addressing gaps in services; and it would, the author hoped, serve as “a representation of positive community change,” Ms Cohen wrote in the book’s introduction.

Six months later the book has been updated, and the project has become a collaborative effort between the Sandy Hook resident and the Town of Newtown.

The second edition, now called Community Connections: Town of Newtown 12-14-12 Resource Guide, was released on May 31. Its release was timed to coincide with “Community Connections: A Day of Shared Experiences,” an all-day event in which adults were able to participate in discussions led by members of other communities affected by violence.

“The town saw the value of [Newtown: Moving Forward], and was starting to do its own collection, so we decided to work together, to collaborate,” this time, Ms Cohen said. “This is now a Town of Newtown publication. It was produced by the town. I am just the editor.”

First Selectman Pat Llodra is “very pleased,” she said this week, with the new volume.

“This document is informational about services, funds, and providers and serves as an outreach for folks to connect to these organizations and people as each of us continues on this journey of recovery,” Mrs Llodra said via e-mail on June 26. “I invite and encourage our residents, families, teachers, and all to take advantage of this resource. It is a comprehensive, balanced record of services and organizations.”

Community Connections has its listings, like its predecessor, arranged alphabetically. The new volume is spiral-bound. Inside its tri-fold cover is an alphabetized listing of all of the organizations within the book, each accompanied by its website address. A Table of Contents is also offered, arranged alphabetically.

Because so many organizations offer more than one service, Ms Cohen created a two-page Organization Categories listing, offering listings under the categories of Advocacy, Animal Therapy, Arts, Autism Initiative, Community Outreach, Education, Environment, Fundraising, and Grieving/Healing.

Community Connections still includes descriptions — 67 pages’ worth — about the majority of organizations created in the aftermath of 12/14, many written by the organizations themselves.

“Like the town, I’m pleased that we were able to update the book with the additional organizations and changes from my first edition,” said Ms Cohen. “The organizations continue to undergo changes, and it’s important for Newtowners to have updated information to gain the services they need.”

Ms Cohen was paid a fee for her editing, “at cost,” she said. “I put a lot of time and effort into this.”

Likewise David Stowe, vice president of sales for Dot Generation, reportedly offered to have the Stamford-based printer handle the printing “at cost for us,” said Ms Cohen.

Unlike Newtown: Moving Forward, Community Connections is not available for purchase. It is, said its editor, a reference source for residents.

Each organization represented in the book has been given a PDF version of the book; most have also received printed editions. People’s Bank and Bank of America, both on Queen Street, have also been given copies, and Ms Cohen is hoping to have copies put into the lobbies of more Newtown banks. Most houses of worship have also been given a copy, as has Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr, and each of the public schools, said Ms Cohen.

Newtown Health District, Newtown Social Services, and NYS Sports & Fitness Center have also been given copies to display, as has C.H. Booth Library. A copy is also available for public use at Newtown Municipal Center.

“Our goal,” she said, “is to circulate this book as much as possible. This helps residents determine where they can get the services they need and/or volunteer their time or make contributions to these groups. The organizations in this book come into contact with a large number of residents and can greatly help get the word out.

“I have reiterated to these organizations: have these available where people are coming in and out, somewhere accessible,” said Ms Cohen. “The important thing is, if people have a need, and don’t know what services are available, they should look through this book and find a place that matches their needs. They should go to these places and just see how many services are available.”

Another departure from Newtown: Moving Forward: the new volume does not carry the green and white color scheme the first book featured, which corresponded with so many of the post-12/14 tributes and memorials. Mrs Llodra said that was done to tie the reference source in with the May program it echoed. Publicity materials for “Community Connections” were done in dark blue and yellow, so the new book was created to mirror that look.

“We like the relationship to the Community Connections theme and the message that conveys so we decided to align this work with those concepts of community and connecting,” Mrs Llodra said. 

A year after beginning the project of putting together a comprehensive guide for fellow residents, Ms Cohen is still astonished at the resources available.

“It’s amazing to see how many organizations are doing things for the town,” she said. “This shows such a commitment of so many people.”

Ms Cohen is still hoping that groups with similar purposes will work together.

“It is hoped that the information provided will encourage organizations to further their collaboration, share best practices and learn from one another,” she said, referring back to one of the goals of her initial publication.

There are some groups that opted to not be included in Community Connections, said Ms Cohen. Nearly everyone who was contacted about the book was included, however.

“I really am pleased with the fact that so many organizations are in this,” Ms Cohen said. “I’m very happy that we were able to get everyone in, even with some last minute calls.”

Whether the collection will again be updated is not clear.

“If I have missed anyone, please let me or the town know,” said Ms Cohen, who can be reached via e-mail. “If and when there is another edition, we will get you in.

“At the very least,” she added, “we can send updates to everyone who has copies right now.”

Mrs Llodra echoed the encouragement that organizations reach out with their concerns.

“We also welcome feedback so that any other iteration — should there be such —  would reflect perspectives/information we may have missed in this publication,” she wrote Thursday morning.

Anyone who would like to read the guide online can do so through the Newtown Public School District website


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