How did A Better Chance Darien begin?

by Anne Kimball - Founder

A Better Chance in Darien came about as a result of one of our "Explorations" gatherings. These were offered every year by Person-to-Person to raise awareness of programs in the area that benefited the disenfranchised, etc. The ABC program in New Canaan had come to our attention and so we planned a program around the boys there. They were terrific and I realized that Darien could have a similar program.  So I gathered together some other interested folks and we set about talking with the national office in Boston spending time with the Program in New Canaan and laying the groundwork for a program in Darien.  Herbert West was one of those original supporters and he became the president of what we loosely called a Board. With Doug Ray's help – he was the Assistant Rector of St. Luke's at the time - I put together a slide presentation about ABC and traipsed around town promoting it.

In short order we had a lot of people upset with what we wanted to do but just as many enthusiastic about the program.   I got quite a few hate phone calls and we had our mailbox blown up one day! Every day when I came home from work ( I was the Director of Person-to-Person then) I expected to see a cross ablaze on our front lawn. However, with Herb's steady leadership we continued on and soon had raised enough funds to launch the program.

Finding a house for the students to live in was a huge problem as no one wanted us in their back yard and zoning prohibited many possible sites. Then, one day, the Congregational Church offered us their house for $1.00 a year!!!  Wow!! We had to do quite a bit of remodeling but everyone pitched in and accomplished wonders.  Then our first house parents, Roz and Bill McCarthy appeared and said they wanted to take part. One of the women who had worked with the boys in New Canaan offered to come and be our cook... She was awesome. All the pieces fell into place so quickly one had to know that the Holy Spirit was behind it all!!

When the girls first came in the fall the house was not ready so they lived with their host families and came to our house every evening for dinner and tutoring.  It turned out to the best thing for them and a great way to introduce the program and the girls to the community.

My favorite story is that in the spring, after the girls had moved into the house, they had a car wash. When I stopped by to see how things were going there was a long line of cars waiting to be washed and in the midst of it all the first Selectman and the head of the Rotary were beaming and crowing as though they had invented the whole thing. A year earlier, they had given us a VERY hard time and wanted no part of ABC in Darien!!! The girls were so great!  They won over the community in no time and for the most part the first few years went much more smoothly than any of us had predicted.

It's been thrilling to watch the Program continue and become such an integral part of the community.