The best way to create a better future is to do your best at this very moment.” — Debasish Mridha
People Who Care. Causes That Matter.
The Northwest CT Community Foundation (NCCF) transforms lives and strengthens communities in Northwest Connecticut by connecting donors who care with causes that matter.
NCCF has granted more than $50 million to area non-profits and scholarship recipients, making a meaningful difference for the homeless and hungry, for our libraries, our schools, our churches, and our environment. Most importantly, thanks to the generosity of donors like you, NCCF improves the lives of people in your town.*
*NCCF serves Connecticut’s Northwest Corner, including the 20 towns of Barkhamsted, Bethlehem, Canaan (Falls Village), Colebrook, Cornwall, Goshen, Hartland, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Hartford, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Torrington, Warren, Washington, and Winchester/Winsted
Funds Provide for a Better Future, Now and Forever
Our more than 320 funds address current and emerging needs in the areas of arts and culture, civic improvements, basic needs, and animal care and conservation, and put education within reach for local students.
Funds Established in 2021
Bruce Bell Fund - This fund protects wild and scenic resources and promotes their safe and sustainable use by the public. Resources include forests and other wildlife habitat, as well as watersheds, and their attendant animal and fish populations. The geographic focus of the Bruce Bell Fund is the northwest corner of CT and the contiguous portion of the Housatonic Valley in Massachusetts.
Cornwall Conservation Trust Lot 19 Valley Road Stewardship Fund - One of 24 funds, this fund is used for land acquisition and management, with the aim of preserving unspoiled open space for the benefit of the community at large.
CT Volunteer Services for the Blind & Handicapped Digital Fund AND CT Volunteer Services for the Blind & Handicapped Fund - These funds support the CT Volunteer Services for the Blind and Handicapped in its work with the Connecticut State Library’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) to record books, pamphlets, and magazines as digital talking books for those who cannot hold or read printed material.
Dana Joseph Pallotto Memorial Fund - This fund supports the CT Volunteer Services for the Blind and Handicapped in its work to record books, pamphlets, and magazines as digital talking books for those who cannot hold or read printed material.
Douglas and Janet Roberts Fund - This field-of-interest fund established through the estate of Douglas E. Roberts, supports the programs of nonprofits working to improve life for the residents of Barkhamsted and educational enrichment for Barkhamsted students.
Estelle A. and David A. MacKenzie Fund - This donor-advised fund supports charitable, scientific, and educational initiatives in Northwest CT.
Jill Pudlinski Tavano Memorial Scholarship Fund - This fund, established in memory of Jill Pudlinski Tavano, awards two scholarships annually one to a Torrington High School graduate pursuing a career in mathematics, and one to a Torrington High
School graduate pursuing a career in science.
Marion and Vic Muschell Family Fund - This donor-advised fund supports charitable, scientific, or educational initiatives in Northwest CT.
Sue Strisik Grossman Fund - This donor-advised fund supports charitable, scientific, and educational initiatives in Northwest CT.
Claire and Robert Dombi Fund - This donor-advised fund supports charitable, scientific, or educational initiatives in Northwest CT and beyond.
William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund - This fund awards scholarships to Northwest CT students pursuing a degree in medicine, both human and veterinary, and students pursuing environmental studies.
Women & Girls Scholarship Fund: Helping Our Heroes - In partnership with Northwestern Connecticut Community College,
this fund supports women enrolled in healthcare degree programs at Northwestern Connecticut Community College.
Supporting Organizations are similar to private foundations in that they operate with a separate board of directors with grant-making responsibilities, but because they operate under NCCF they operate more efficiently and with the benefits of a public charity. Directors enjoy a high amount of involvement in their philanthropy while benefiting from NCCF grant and investment expertise and administrative support.
Foundation For Community Health works together with people and organizations to improve the health and well-being of residents in our community, especially those that have historically been under-resourced.
Foundation for Community Health makes grants, conducts research, provides technical assistance, and supports collaborations and advocacy with a focus on underlying conditions impacting health, such as homes, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.
- Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust, Inc.
- The Robert C. Geer Memorial Hospital, Inc.
- McCall Center for Behavioral Health
- Women’s Support Services
The John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation was created for the purpose of protecting and improving the welfare of animals of all kinds with a focus on cats and dogs, the promotion of veterinary programs, and the protection of wildlife, including endangered species, flora, and fauna.
- Alliance for Contraception in Cats & Dogs
- The Animal Haven
- Catrock Ventures, Inc.
- Connecticut Humane Society
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Groundwork Bridgeport, Inc
- Little Guild of Saint Francis
- Mercy College
- Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society
- Middlesex Community College Foundation
- Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement, Inc.
- Mohawk Hudson Humane Society
- New England Federation of Humane Societies
- Northwestern Connecticut Community College
- New Hartford Land Trust
- New Haven Land Trust
- The Norfolk Land Trust
- Regents of the University of California, Davis
- Salisbury Association, Inc.
- Shelter Animals Count
- Warren Land Trust
- Whiskers Pet Rescue, Inc.
Making the Northwest Corner Even Better
Sally Vaun spent much of her childhood playing in the rolling farmland of Pennsylvania.
She worked on her family’s farm tending to chickens, turkeys, and sheep.
Living in a close-knit community of farmers, Sally often helped her friends with their chores, feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, so they could run off to play or sneak a ride on a nearby cow, climbing up on its bony back and trotting around the pasture to wild giggles.
By the 1960s, Sally was working as a volunteer at Hartford Hospital in the emergency room: cleaning and prepping gurneys, greeting patients, getting them blankets, and helping family members navigate the hospital. It was there that she met William “Bill” Vaun, a young doctor completing his residency. A year later, they were married.
Bill had grown up in Hartford, the son of Greek immigrants. His father died young of throat cancer.
“Bill’s family lived modestly,” said Sally. “His mother was not sure he should go to college at all. I think it was losing his father that inspired him to become a doctor. He wanted to help people experiencing illness.”
Bill received the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation Scholarship to attend Trinity College as an undergraduate and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, he joined the United States Air Force and worked in The Pentagon.
Throughout his career, Bill practiced internal medicine, specializing in endocrinology. He taught at St. Luke’s Hospital, the Cleveland Clinic, the Hahnemann University Hospital in Pennsylvania, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, focusing on the future of medicine, including Alzheimer’s research and education.
“Bill was meticulous as a physician and a brilliant diagnostician,” said Sally. “Colleagues brought him the most difficult
Wherever they settled, Sally was busy caring for animals, adopting retired racehorses and volunteering. In New Jersey, Sally organized a horseback riding program for children with physical and developmental disabilities and volunteered with the Junior League.
“It was just so heartwarming to see children, who were often in a wheelchair, riding, being so active and feeling more confident. You could see it in their faces. Their teachers would tell me, ‘He is so assertive now. Before he was reluctant to do things. Now he partakes much more in the school.’"
When Bill retired, they settled in Norfolk. Sally began to volunteer at the Norfolk Historical Society and the Norfolk Community Association. She served on the Alumni Board of Chase Collegiate School in Waterbury.
In 2014, Bill passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s, a disease he had spent years researching.
In 2021, after speaking with her professional advisor and considering the needs of her local community, Sally Vaun established the Northwest CT Community Foundation William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund.
The fund awards scholarships to students pursuing degrees in medicine and healthcare for both humans and animals and to students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, specifically ecology and environmental sciences.
“Bill and I always knew we wanted to give back, and we were fortunate to be able,” said Sally. “If everybody would give a little, the world, and our little corner of it, would be so much better.”
As an endowed fund, the principal of the William and Sally Vaun Scholarship Fund will continue to grow through prudent investment, while annual scholarship awards support local students and strengthen education in the Northwest Corner forever.
“There is a need for medical professionals serving people and animals,” said Sally. “It’s important that we help young people become educated, to see what’s happening, and to be able to make things better. People and animals need to be cared for.”
Gifts for a Better Northwest Corner
In 2021, Northwest Corner community members gave millions of dollars in gifts in response to immediate needs, and to support causes that matter and programs making a difference.
Funds Keep Music Mountain Vibrant
“We are coming out of Covid stronger than before. Music Mountain is a vibrant place this summer.”
In the rolling hills of Falls Village, there is a small collection of buildings, tucked amid lush grounds. It is home to Music Mountain, a chamber music festival venue, an educational workshop, a place for community to gather and connect through live music—and the embodiment of an almost 100- year old dream.
Music Mountain was established in 1930 by Jacques Gordon, a talented young immigrant from Ukraine who rose to become the youngest concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. While playing with the Berkshire String Quartet, Jacques set his sights on the hills of Falls Village to fulfill his dream of creating a chamber music festival.
Since then, Music Mountain has grown into a vibrant music venue, annually hosting dozens of chamber music performances, in addition to a new series of concerts featuring jazz, big band, and Broadway favorites. The Music Mountain Academy holds six workshops a year, welcoming young musicians who are mentored by seasoned artists.
Each August, the grounds are filled with music as community members of all ages gather and settle in with canvas and paintbrush in hand for the popular Painting Music event with local artist Vincent Inconiglios and the Cassatt String Quartet.
As the Pandemic worsened, for a brief moment, the music stopped.
“Everyone was so isolated,” said Oskar Espina-Ruiz, artistic and executive director of Music Mountain. “We knew we had to do something.”
With a grant from the Northwest CT Community Foundation Khurshed Bhumgara Fund and the Northwest CT Community Foundation Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund Music Mountain staff purchased sound reinforcement, recording, and livestreaming equipment.
“Live from Music Mountain,” a television-show inspired program featuring Oskar and various musicians, was born. Interviews, discussion, music, and laughter streamed out of Music Mountain and into the homes of 30,000 patrons.
“Community members got the opportunity to see us, to talk to their favorite musicians, we cracked jokes and answered questions from viewers in real-time, and of course, we played music.”
“Music is transformative,” said Oskar. “And, it’s social. We learned so much about using technology to connect with each other. We all recuperated a part of what we were missing that summer.” As restrictions eased, Music Mountain employed the new technology to welcome community members to enjoy Music Mountain from the grounds. Two large screens on the lawn live-streamed concerts from inside the building as music poured from audiophile speakers. Community members sat at socially distanced picnic tables or brought blankets and chairs from home. Others enjoyed the concert inside Gordon Hall masked and socially distanced.
“They had a really good time,” said Oskar. “And we were able to host more people safely. The technology purchased through the support of the Community Foundation enables people to enjoy music in the fresh air on the grounds, and it enables those who cannot come here because of age, or illness to log in and enjoy a live show from the comfort of their homes.
“We are coming out of Covid stronger than before. Music Mountain is a vibrant place this summer.”
Grants Make the Northwest Corner Better Now and Far into the Future
$5 million in grants were awarded through the generosity of fundholders, supporting organization trustees, fund advisors, and donors. Nonprofits were awarded grants for immediate needs, for programs and capital projects that support local nonprofits working to improve lives and strengthen communities.
Warm Beds and Nutritious Meals in Difficult Times
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, communities in Northwest CT came together to ensure that economically challenged residents received the support they needed.
Because of the generosity of those in our communities and through the Northwest CT Community Foundation: Covid-19 Rapid Response Fund, Khurshed Bhumgara Fund, Edward W. Diskavich Fund, Draper Foundation Fund, The Echo Valley Foundation Fund, Marion Wm. & Alice Edwards Fund, Lucia Tuttle Fritz Fund, Jeffrey and Susan Lalonde Community Betterment Fund, Norfolk NET Fund, Raymond A. and Gloria B. Oneglia Family Fund, Edwin M. Stone and Edith H. Stone Fund, and Abraham & Joann Temkin Memorial Fund local nonprofits received continued support for our most vulnerable community members, almost $500,000 in grants in early 2021 to support the most basic of needs: food and shelter.
“We are very grateful,” said Pamela Carignan of The Salvation Army. “We witness people in need on a daily basis. Without the support of donors like you, our work would not be possible.”
In the fall of 2021, NCCF awarded an additional $81,500 in grants to nonprofits serving some of the area’s most economically distressed residents and providing for necessities—food, warmth, clothing, fuel assistance, and shelter.
“We see so many families in need every year. We truly appreciate your partnership in helping those who are struggling,” said Pastor Kevin Mongeau of Hands of Grace.
In 2021, grants in support of basic needs were awarded to organizations including: Town of Canaan Emergency Relief Food and Fuel, Caring for Bethlehem, Church of Christ Congregational, Community Kitchen of Torrington, Cornwall Food and Fuel, Cornwall Social Services, FISH of Northwestern CT, Food Rescue, Friendly Hands Food Bank, Gifts of Love, Hazon, Kent Social Services, Litchfield Department of Social Services, New Beginnings of Northwest Hills, Partners for Sustainable Healthy Communities, Salvation Army Winsted Regional Service Center, and Winchester Youth Service Bureau.
We witness people in need on a daily basis. Without the support of donors like you, our work would not be possible.”
Scholarship Funds Build a Better Future for Local Students
180 local students were awarded more than $239,000 in scholarships and academic awards providing them with the support they need to become the next generation of scientists, engineers, artists, teachers, medical professionals, and entrepreneurs. Scholarship recipients began and resumed classes in the fall of 2021 with majors that varied from health care to transportation.
For the year ending December 2021, with comparable totals for 2020
Statement of Activities
NCCF provides prudent stewardship of a sizeable community endowment designed to benefit future generations of Northwest CT citizens.
Our investment objective is to maximize the endowment’s purchasing power by pursuing long-term investment results that exceed the annual spending policy— the amount needed for grants and expenses—plus inflation. This allows for sufficient and predictable growth to meet pressing community needs while providing capital preservation into the future.
The oversight and assessment of investments are conducted by its Board of Directors and Investment Committee. Dedicated to the pursuit of strong returns within acceptable risk tolerances, the Investment Committee employs an asset-allocation strategy designed to capitalize on a well-diversified portfolio that performs well during a variety of market and economic conditions. In doing so, the Investment Committee considers past and expected future performance of available asset classes, including investment strategies of other community foundations, nonprofit endowments, and charitable funds, along with a variety of widely accepted performance benchmarks.
Corporate Investment Returns
Meet the Northwest CT Community Foundation