Building from the ground up

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New organization seeks nonprofit status

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NAUGATUCK — A new organization is working to get its feet off the ground as a nonprofit in Naugatuck and has its sights set on educating youth and stopping violence through art education.

The nonprofit, tentatively named the Jubilee Community Group, was started by Sandra Byrne, 57, of Waterbury, six months ago.

“We are going to help individuals through art, creativity, counseling and self defense,” Byrne said. “I’m going to teach how to communicate effectively and learn how to be kinder.”

Byrne, who has owned the ice cream truck business Naugatuck Softee for 17 years, said she chose to base her organization in Naugatuck because she feels it’s needed in the borough.

“Waterbury has a lot of programs to fill that need but Naugatuck doesn’t. There’s a need for more supportive programs to prevent violence,” Byrne said.

Byrne said the organization was born partly out of her work doing community outreach with art at various festivals and events.

“It happened by accident. I’m a very creative person,” Byrne said.

Byrne said working as a volunteer at the Higvhille Mustard Seed Charter School in Hamden also pushed her towards the decision of beginning her own nonprofit organization.

“I realized that the kids opened up to me,” Byrne said. “They had their hardships and there was nothing I could do about it because I was a volunteer.”

Byrne said she wants to use the lessons she’s learned in her life, which she said included violence and abuse, to help other people.

“I’ve had quite an interesting life that had a lot of hardships. I overcame a lot of them by learning to be resilient,” Byrne said.

Byrne said she would like to bring her organization into the local schools and help teach children lessons through art. She hopes by using art she can create a space for children to open up about their feelings and help them to stop bullying one another.

“I want to teach them to express themselves when they are mistreated. This way they don’t hold on and hurt themselves. Once they learn good coping skills, they can move forward in their lives,” Byrne said.

Byrne said she would also like to create a community resource group for artists and people interested in the arts.  

“I found out that there are a lot of people that don’t support art that’s already in the community. If we could just brighten peoples’ lives and expose them to the arts the world will be a better place,” Byrne said.

Michelle Byrne, Byrne’s daughter-in-law, is the vice president of the Jubilee Community Group, Byrne said. Naugatuck residents Sherri Ramos and Trudy Super are also involved with the organization.

Byrne is kicking off the new organization with a Dinner Dance fundraiser Saturday night to raise money to help the organization cover the cost of becoming a nonprofit organization and for future events.

The event will be held from 6 p.m. until midnight at Saint Michael’s Church Hall, 210 Church St., in Naugatuck.

The theme of the event will be Many Cultures One Nation and will feature international cuisine from local restaurants. The fundraiser will also feature a silent and a live auction that will include gift certificates and items from local crafters. Music will be provided by local cover band Grey Negative and barbershop quartet No Time Flat.

The suggested ticket prices are $25 for general admission, $15 for seniors and disabled persons, and $10 for the dance only from 9 p.m. until midnight. Byrne said that the donations are free-will and people who are unable to afford the entry fee are still invited. For tickets, contact Byrne at (203) 525-9912, (203) 575-9449 or sandrabyrne101@gmail.com.

Those who bring a non-perishable food item will receive a free raffle ticket. All food items will be donated to the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank.

As Jubilee Community Group works to establish itself, Byrne said she is eyeing office space along Church Street to rent to ensure the organization has a permanent location in the borough.

Byrne said she doesn’t want the organization to be just another business, but to be something that really helps the borough. 

“I know I can create a business, but I feel in my heart that I want to establish something that will last forever and be a service to the individuals in the community,” Byrne said.