The audience stirred in their seats across the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, whispering murmurs of excitement. It was Nov. 3 at 8:30 p.m, and the Homes with Hope Comedy Fundraiser was about to begin.
Jeff Wieser, President and CEO of Homes With Hope, walked onto the Quick Center stage, adjusted his tie, and smiled at the audience. “Welcome to the 11th Annual Stand Up for Homes with Hope Comedy Fundraiser. In my line of work, you just don’t get to laugh often, and this is a great night for comedy… a great night for Homes with Hope. ”
Wieser went on to introduce Homes with Hope’s new Chief Operating Officer, Vice President and Director of Emergency Shelter Services Paris Looney, who shared more about the ways that Homes with Hope helps people in the Fairfield County community.
“Homes with Hope shelters 117 persons every night,” Looney said, “and we also help people with mental health issues, substance abuse issues and poverty.” Looney then introduced several of the people who Homes with Hope helped, identified by only their first names only.
Sandy, a single mother of five, said that she arrived in Connecticut, “scared and afraid” and that she was so thankful that Homes with Hope helped her find a safe place to live, and later assisted her with career mentorship and provided safe after school activities for her children. “I now have a national certification to be a bookkeeper… thank you so much, Homes with Hope,” Sandy said.
“I am very appreciative, because if not for them, I would still be homeless.” Larry, a man who had been disowned by his family, said as he smiled at the audience. “Thanks to all the staff at Homes with Hope. You never gave up on me.”
Shortly afterwards, there was a silent auction. Audience members were asked to raise their paddle if they wanted to donate to Homes for Hope, and many people in the audience donated, contributing to the success of the night.
After the silent auction, the comedy show began. Nate Bargatze is a stand-up comedian from Tennessee who has appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, Comedy Central and his debut comedic album “Yelled at By a Clown” reached #1 on the iTunes Comedy Charts.
Nate Bargatze was so funny, and although a lot of his jokes had to do with making fun of marriage and raising children, he also joked about Starbucks, dog cafés, college and education.
Bargatze has a slyly self-effacing comedy style. He’s always making fun of himself, so his character flaws are the real joke. This self-effacing style made me trust his comedy more, because he was so willing to play up his flaws for humor: “I’m at the stage where my daughter still asks me questions, and I can still answer them. But by next year- second grade- and for the rest of her life, she’ll be smarter than me.”
The event was a roaring success. Thanks to the generosity of the donors who gave their time and their money to help other members of the community, over $100,000 was raised for Homes with Hope, which helps so many people find safe living spaces, help for mental health and substance abuse issues, safe after- school activities for their children, mentorship and job opportunities. Long after the comedy show was over, I was left with a warm feeling of hope because I saw how the Fairfield County community came together to help other community members in need.