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Charter Oak Communities Celebrates 75 Years of Transformation and Growth

STAMFORD, Conn., Feb. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Charter Oak Communities (COC) is celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2014, its 75th year since the creation of its initial charter as the Stamford Housing Authority. According to Vincent J. Tufo, executive director and CEO, the nature, mission and goals of public-assisted housing in Stamford have changed dramatically over this time, and the transformation over the past decade has been evolutionary.

"While we have many new residences and innovative partnerships to proudly celebrate, our real successes are about human achievement," reflects Tufo. "When you treat people respectfully and with dignity, help them gain new skills and provide opportunities that foster pride in themselves and their surroundings, they're more likely to succeed and thrive.  Facilitating achievement and opportunity has a cascading effect – helping people to help themselves encourages and revitalizes entire neighborhoods and communities, increases property values and attracts needed investment."

Over the past decade, COC has replaced obsolete, high-rise public-assisted housing with new town houses and apartments that fit the architecture and character of Stamford's neighborhoods. These communities feature a variety of amenities, such as after-school programs, tended green space, and superior maintenance. Other enhancements include improved lighting, playgrounds, Energy Star design, security systems, private parking, and individual case managers assigned to support every resident.

COC offers this case-management program in partnership with Family Centers, a highly regarded, local human services agency.  Service coordinators work with residents to connect them with organizations that provide education, job training and placement opportunities, as well as childcare, counseling, healthcare, transportation and computer and financial literacy services.  This relationship – initiated in 2003 – has flourished, and COC residents are working toward achieving self-sufficiency, economic independence and an improved quality of life.

"Like the many people we serve, we can look back on the profound changes and improvements along our organizational journey and reflect proudly on our many significant accomplishments," says Cortney A. Nelthropp, chairman, COC Board of Commissioners. "While public-assisted housing in Stamford was once viewed as distressed, degrading and a magnet for poverty-related side effects like crime, violence and drugs, our revitalized communities and their residents are increasingly viewed as an asset to their neighborhoods.  Additionally, grass-roots-style coalitions have been created to improve communication and give residents and others living in surrounding neighborhoods a voice in local decision making."

Innovative partnerships have been established to access new avenues of funding, guide local development, and to help improve public health and safety.  In one such venture, COC and Stamford Hospital, in partnership with the City of Stamford and numerous community-based providers, are creating a unique health and wellness district, called Vita. This collaboration helps residents gain access to improved healthcare, nutrition, healthy food options and supportive services.  Local healthcare centers have been opened; an urban agricultural cooperative – called Fairgate Farm – has replaced blighted buildings; and efforts include outreach to promote education, obesity reduction, access to healthy food choices, primary care and wider community participation.

COC will open its newest community, Greenfield – a 45-unit mixed-income property – in late 2014.

Investors, as well as local, State and federal government officials have taken note of the transformation occurring in Stamford. Areas of the City once ignored and considered undesirable are now being viewed as smart investments, and new housing is emerging. Market values have risen accordingly, and employers are encouraged since affordable housing in traditionally expensive regions like Fairfield County attracts service workers who normally could not afford to live or work in these areas.

"In Stamford, Charter Oak Communities residents are taking measurable steps toward economic self-sufficiency and improved quality of life," Tufo observes. "This transformation has had a dramatic positive impact on the quality of life in this community, while also changing the way public-assisted housing is viewed, appreciated and funded. On behalf of myself, the COC Board of Commissioners, and our residents and partners, I want to thank everyone who has supported us, and encourage our many constituents to stay involved as we set our sights on celebrating our first centennial."

Ira Morrison
[email protected]

SOURCE Charter Oak Communities

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