Caroline House marks 20 years with help of Wilton sisters

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From left, Instructor Sister Justine Nutz SSND, graduate Maria Gonzales, Caroline House Executive Director, Sister Peg Regan SSND and Instructor Sister Kate Whalen SSND gather to celebrate this recent student’s success.

The nonprofit Caroline House is based at 574 Stillman Street in Bridgeport but has a Wilton connection.

The facility celebrated its 20th anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, Oct. 18, at Saint Charles Church, followed by a reception and open house.

In the early 1990s, Wilton’s School Sisters of Notre Dame sought to broaden their initiative to educate women and children in need and decided to focus their efforts on isolated, immigrants in Bridgeport. Their goal was to help these women acquire the knowledge and skill set to improve their lives and the lives of their offspring. With this conviction and the support of Greater Fairfield County, Caroline House was born in 1995 and named after Caroline Friess, American founder of their order, whose philosophy reflected the Sisters’ objective of assisting those new to America. Sister Margaret (Peg) Regan, who is also Spanish-speaking, serves as the organization’s executive director. Two decades later, Caroline House has helped approximately 1,000 women, 400 children and has become a household name in Bridgeport and beyond.

Sunday’s celebration was a heartfelt salute to 20 years of empowering immigrant women and children. Through the efforts of Caroline House and its dedicated staff and volunteers, those in need have garnered life and language skills that have enabled them to persevere. The nonprofit relies solely on grants, funding from donors/local organizations and monies from fund-raisers. It is the generosity of the southern Connecticut community that has sustained them. For this — and for the success of their students — Caroline House sought to give thanks.

“We’ve done a good job in helping women and kids these past 20 years, but the need keeps growing, so we will be doing the same for the next 20,” said Sister Peg.

Sister Peg also recounted a story involving a young mother and daughter who sought assistance via Caroline House. Sandra graduated from the program, yet her daughter still needed to complete nursery school and kindergarten. She offered to volunteer in the Caroline House office until her child could complete this schooling. Sandra has since become more fluent in English and is now part of the job force. What’s more, when her daughter was tested and applied to attend first grade at a Bridgeport Catholic school, Sandra was told her daughter could enroll in second grade instead. It’s examples such as these, Sister Peg attests, that keep the spirit of Caroline House alive.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate the many milestones of Caroline House — the success of our graduates, the expansion of our programming, and our continued mission to help immigrant women and children reach their potential. In addition, we especially want to highlight and praise our donors, without whom Caroline House could not continue to thrive,” said Alexis Yates, board member and development committee chair.

Yates is also helping spearhead the upcoming Caroline House Wine Tasting on Friday, Nov. 20, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Fairfield Museum & History Center, 370 Beach Road, Fairfield. Tickets are $40 per person and available at thecarolinehouse.org or payment can be mailed in. The tasting will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, fine wines and an exciting raffle. Additionally, the Caroline House annual spring fund-raiser slated for Friday, April 1, will be held at Westport’s The Inn at Longshore; details to follow on the organization’s website and social media. .

Caroline House is a non-denominational education center teaching literacy and life skills toeconomically disadvantaged immigrant women and children; classes are held four days a week from 9 to 1:30. Tutoring is available for students up through ninth grade and adult workshops are provided on topics such as financial management, parenting, health and nutrition, domestic violence concerns and safety issues. Citizenship classes are also given in the evening.

Since opening its doors 20 years ago, Caroline House has nurtured and educated hundreds of women and children at no charge. Grants, foundations and individual donors provide the financial support for Caroline House to operate. For more information, to volunteer or to make a donation, call 203-334-0640 or e-mail info@thecarolinehouse.org. Caroline House can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thecarolinehouse or followed on Twitter @CarolineHouseCT.

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