Through my high school, I have the unique opportunity to intern at the my town’s Chamber of Commerce, which has given me unparalleled access to my community. This experience has been extraordinary because at 18-years-old, I am about to leave for college in one of the busiest cities in the world: Los Angeles. While I am so excited to begin this journey and immerse myself in a new environment, I am also extremely sad to be leaving my home of 17 years. Our town name isn’t recognizable on a national scale, but its citizens are unconditionally kind and exceptionally passionate, which makes New Canaan unequivocally special.
Stories About New Canaan
No matter your age, gender, or socioeconomic background, all New Canaan residents have a fierce love for this town stemming from the various events and projects that define our community. Ranging from a high school football game to the Holiday Stroll in December, our residents love to come together to support the community. Additionally, through landmark organizations like the New Canaan Historical Society, our town consistently works to preserve our rich history while looking towards the future. Whether it be via our fantastic school system or leadership organizations, New Canaan residents are always working to modernize our town in ways that do not disrupt our traditions and core values. Because of this, many people that grew up in New Canaan as children move back here with their families. New Canaan truly facilitates an inclusive and proud community that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
According to our former First Selectman Rob Mallozzi, “Our community is special due to our spirit of volunteerism and involvement.” In some capacity, everyone in this community actively looks to help others, which is why there are so many organizations and philanthropic opportunities. This predilection to help others is first ingrained in New Canaan students. In elementary schools, students are taught to work hard and be kind, and kids learn to embrace the anti-bullying message. These important topics see a continued emphasis in middle school, where students start to volunteer and learn about inclusivity to all types of people and kindness. Within the high school, many students become involved with organizations like National Charity League and the Service League of Boys, which aim to promote volunteer work in communities in need of help. Additionally, many students also participate in the Sports Buddies program, which pairs high schoolers with special needs students to create a positive and fun gym experience.
Outside of the school system, volunteer work is just as prevalent. People love to work with organizations like Staying Put, which helps senior citizens live independently within New Canaan, and New Canaan Cares, which enhances the health and wellbeing of residents. New Canaan residents pioneer causes like the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, as people in this town truly want to utilize their resources and abilities to change the lives of others. This kindness and generosity is not only common among the residents, but businesses as well. Through my position at the Chamber of Commerce, I have seen businesses actively collaborate with the community, constantly donating time and money to nonprofit programs and town events, including New Canaan High School’s senior post prom. This tendency to put the needs of others first truly defines our town.
As I approach my last few months in this town, I have reflected on my time here with palpable feelings of gratuity and pride. New Canaan is a special community, that pushes its residents to be the best versions of themselves, encouraging them to leave positive impacts on the lives of others. I am so fortunate to have grown up in this small town, as it instilled a love for community and compassion for all types of people.
One of the most prominent organizations in New Canaan is Staying Put, whose mission is to help seniors who want to continue living in their homes. This organization keeps seniors safe by providing them with transportation to doctors’ appointments and social activities, and keeping them active rather than isolated by organizing picnics, potlucks, and theater excursions. Executive Director Barb Achenbaum says, “Staying Put tries to make sure people are active and engaged. That they feel like they are needed and relevant.” This message is best highlighted by the fact that people of all different ages volunteer and are involved with Staying Put. For example, Achenbaum described a woman named Pat, who works at the front desk and answers the phones for Staying Put, but is also a member and participates in the social functions. New Canaan locals are dedicated to helping their community and love to be involved, no matter their age. Additionally, Achenbaum also stated, “The members of Staying Put are a part of a village, a village of people that support us.” This organization exemplifies the kindness of the people within New Canaan, truly promoting the idea that neighbors should give back to neighbors; residents in New Canaan are dedicated to giving back. U.S. Congressman Jim Himes notes, “Luaus, cookout, and provisions of the ineffable things that we all need as social beings — that human contact, friendship, fraternity, sorority that gives meaning to our lives. Staying Put is dedicated and so good at [those things].”
Another organization that illustrates the kindness of New Canaan is B kind, whose sole mission is to spread kindness. This organization was started in 2014 and focuses on facilitating acts of kindness within our community and in local areas. Alice Mahoney, founder of the organization, expands upon this idea,”There are three elements to our club: kindness to family, kindness to community, and kindness to yourself.” Whether the scale is large or small, this organization works to make this town and our country a kinder and more positive place. In order to do so, B kind created their first club at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. Through this platform, the club establishes their students as ambassadors of kindness, in which they can utilize their leadership experience to organize acts of kindness. The club recently made ornaments in a retirement home with the elderly, allowing them to make profound connections with the residents and to brighten their day. Additionally, the club and organization as a whole are working on a petition to make November 13th the officially recognized World Kindness Day, not to further a separate agenda, but simply to remind people to be kind. This organization is a perfect example of how New Canaan residents are always striving to be kind so that they can make a difference in the lives of others, rather than for personal gain.
The Ram Council is an organization that works to promote substance free living within New Canaan High School, also advocating general wellness including exercise, nutrition, and mental health. This club works to promote the whole person and maintains over 100 members. Club creator Joyce Sixsmith says, “Residents in New Canaan have embraced the mission of the substance free lifestyle, respected it, and have supported the council.” Kids involved with the club come together to choose a healthy lifestyle. According to Sixsmith, “New Canaan high schoolers have an incredible commitment to spread the message and break the cycle of addiction.” These kids are also able to reach out to other students that they may have otherwise never known socially, highlighting the kindness of New Canaan adolescents and the influence of clubs like Ram Council. In order to support the club and its message, parents donate home cooked meals to Ram Council’s monthly dinner meetings. Although this may seem like a small act, it allows kids to relax and eat together, ultimately facilitating an inclusive and supportive environment. The group is supported by the First Selectman, faith groups, and institutions like Bankwell, contributing to the success of the organization and exemplifying New Canaan’s commitment to supporting clubs like Ram Council and embracing positivity and kindness.
New Canaan Cares promotes the wellbeing of residents, teaches students how to be leaders, and brings the community closer together. One of their most prominent functions is the Leadership Program, which allows high school students to improve their leadership and communication abilities while simultaneously volunteering within the community. This program pushes students outside their comfort zone by having them independently organize events at nursing homes and elementary schools, thus encouraging adolescents to be compassionate to a range of people. According to Program Leader Meg Domino, “Kids do really well in the outside world because this town has taught them to be so friendly and stand up for what they believe in.” Additionally, New Canaan Cares works with the town to form intergenerational connections. Domino says, “Schools lead the charge together with the police force and the Chamber of Commerce to help people feel connected and protected and invited to be a part of whatever is happening.” New Canaan Cares truly works to establish a close-knit community, which contributes to the genuine kindness and graciousness that is so prevalent within New Canaan.