TORRINGTON — Two now-legendary entities began in Torrington at almost the same instant in 1969 and have evolved into major institutions with important ties to each other. While Sharon Dante was launching a dance school called Nutmeg Ballet, members of the Torrington Club were starting a philanthropic group called the Torrington Area Foundation for Public Giving. Both began modestly and grew up together just a few blocks apart, changing their names over the years to become the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts and the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation.
“We do an awful lot more than just grant making,” said Guy Rovezzi, president and CEO of the foundation. “Really, what we’re here for is to encourage local philanthropy with the goal of keeping that philanthropy focused on giving back to our communities.” When a potential donor wants to fund a specific kind of charity or nonprofit group, Rovezzi’s investment committee will work with that donor to find the most appropriate ways to do so, he said.
“You may come to us and say, ‘Something really important to me is mental health issues, but I’m really not sure which of the organizations I should support — what they are doing and how they are doing it and which is more effective than others,’” Rovezzi said. His team offers “intellectual capital” in terms of a wide knowledge of community organizations involved in that concern. The goal is to find the investment strategy that offers the greatest impact and outcome for the donor’s charitable dollars, he said.
Over the years, more than 275 separate philanthropic funds have been created under the foundation’s management. The initial investment in 1969 of $15,000 has grown to more than $110 million as of the end of 2017, Rovezzi said.
When the foundation is involved in facilitating a grant to a nonprofit like the Nutmeg Conservatory, the grant is disbursed through one of those 275 funds, Rovezzi explained. For example, a grant of $8,700 to the Torrington Public Schools to allow students to view this year’s Nutmeg production of “The Nutcracker” at the Warner Theatre actually came from the Carlton D. Fyler and Jenny R. Fyler Fund. Torrington residents Carlton D. Fyler, a chauffeur, and Jenny R. Fyler, an educator, established the endowed fund in 1988 through their estate planning.
During the first months of 2018, the foundation has facilitated grants totaling more than $100,000, according to its website. These include $10,000 to the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, through the Edward W. Diskavich Fund; $4,000 to the Connecticut Credit Union Charitable Foundation, through the Keroden Endowed Fund; $7,500 to Food Rescue US, through the Robert V. Carr Fund; and more than 20 more.
Over the years, the foundation’s funds have also supported the Warner Theatre, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, the Torrington Historical Society and many others, he said.
“There was a $100,000 grant made to the hospital,” he said. “Those are large grants for us. Our average grant size is between $3,000 and $8,000, and we make something in the neighborhood of 350 grants a year.”
In 2017, according to a fact sheet he provided, 262 grants totaled over $3.8 million, and 149 scholarships totaled more than $154,000.
A few of the other grants to the Nutmeg Conservatory over the last five decades include:
From the Carlton D. and Jenny R. Fyler Fund: $15,000 for motorized shades on the studio windows, $20,000 for construction and improvements to the community room, $9,907 to replace the sound system, $6,500 for activities related to the production of “Cinderella” and $5,000 to set staging for “The Nutcracker”;
From the Eva M. Coty Fund: $5,892 for marley dance flooring in years past and $37,500 for all new floors for the dance studios installed in 2017; and
From the Richard M. Gilman Memorial Fund: $950 for Wings, a male scholarship program for former students.
According to Sharon Dante, Nutmeg’s founder and executive director, “Many of these grants made from our local foundation have made dreams possible for dancers and have made quality performances possible for our citizens to enjoy. We are most grateful for the gracious generosity that the foundation shows to the entire community, and we are confident that they will continue to grow and thrive in Northwest Connecticut.”
Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation is important, Rovezzi said, because it strengthens organizations that improve community welfare. “It’s about helping people who are the most vulnerable, the most disadvantaged, as well as bringing opportunities for life improvement to the general population,” he said.
The foundation recently relocated to 33 East Main Street, its rear parking lot abutting that of the Nutmeg Conservatory — perhaps a fitting juxtaposition of two entities that were conceived at the same time and impact each other and the community so profoundly. For information on how to contribute to or benefit from the funds the foundation manages, go to www.northwestcf.org/ or call 860-626-1245.
The staff of the Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, from left, back row: Bradford Hoar, vice president of philanthropic services; Leslie Friscia, finance director; Julia Scharnberg, grants and program director; Lorraine Haddock, assistant to the president; Guy Rovezzi, president and CEO. Front, Nicole Easley, communications director; Christina Tranquillo, program and communications associate.