Funding needed to maintain Norwalk’s Sheffield Island Lighthouse
NORWALK — The Norwalk Seaport Association is asking for help raising money to maintain the Sheffield Island Lighthouse after its largest annual fundraiser was canceled due to COVID-19.
The association announced the cancelation of the 43rd annual Oyster Festival in May amid concerns about spreading the coronavirus. The volunteer-run event is a Norwalk tradition and raises more than $200,000 annually for community groups, including for the Seaport Association.
Proceeds from the Oyster Festival go toward maintaining and preserving the Sheffield Island Lighthouse, which the group bought in 1986. But the Oyster Festival was canceled for the first time this year, along with the Norwalk Seaport Association’s other regular fundraisers, which include its annual gala and cocktails and oysters party usually held at Norm Bloom and Son.
As a nonprofit, up to 90 percent of the Norwalk Seaport Association’s funds come from these events. The money is funneled back into the maintenance and preservation of the Sheffield Island Lighthouse and its educational programs. Instead this year, the group is trying to raise the funds to maintain the 152-year-old property through GoFundMe.
The fundraising page lists a $5,000 goal, but Norwalk Seaport Association President Mike Reilly said the group would like to raise $100,000, which is a fraction of its normal operation costs.
“Our fundraising right now is to keep the operation going and keep our renovations and keep the lighthouse looking great,” Reilly said. “We’ve never done a general appeal like this. We always do memberships, but with all our fundraising events canceled or affected, it’s been a major hit for us. ... Owning a lighthouse and taking care of a lighthouse 4 miles off shore is not easy and is costly.”
The Seaport Association has also canceled many of its usual educational programs as the lighthouse remains closed. Normally, thousands of students visit the historic property each year. The association has also reduced the number of daily cruises and the capacity on them, down to 25 from 49.
Reilly said he expects the lighthouse to reopen next year. In the meantime, money from the initial fundraising will go toward interior paintwork on the property, sealing up the new pavilion, which opened last year, and upgrading the sea wall.
“We have been through a lot as an organization and we continue to push forward and be positive and want to make an impact on our community,” Reilly said. “The lighthouse is a big part of Norwalk. We need help with funding just like anyone else — $100,000 sounds like a lot, but when you think about the community involved, I think it’s doable.”
To donate, visit the Norwalk Seaport Association’s GoFundMe page or mail a check to Seaport Association, 213 Liberty Square, Norwalk, CT 06855.