Representatives from charities that recently received 2023 grants from the Westport Rotary Club pose with Peter Helt, center front, chairman of the club’s Community Giving Committee. / Contributed photos
Members of the Westport Rotary Club’s Community Giving Committee are, top row from left, Peter Helt and Irwin Lebish; bottom row from left, Mark Agnew, Leslie   Roberts, Joe Nixon, Ellin Curley, Debbie DiBella and Kenny Epstein.

WESTPORT — Celebrating the gift of giving, members of the Westport Rotary Club gathered earlier this month to give more than $180,000 to nearly 40 nonprofit organizations.

The occasion was the club’s annual “Community Giving Luncheon” when checks were presented to qualified charities with a wide range of missions.

This year, the Westport Rotary’s Community Giving Committee, after deliberating on the grant applications, allocated awards totaling $180,500 to 39 groups — 33 had received grants in previous years, plus six nonprofits were selected for the first time.

Among the grant recipients were several charities supporting educational programs, particularly those “trying to narrow the gap in learning between the privileged and underprivileged children in the county,” according to a Westport Rotary press statement.

Katie Fitzmaurice, representing Homes with Hope, accepts a 2023 Westport Rotary grant from Peter Helt, chairman of the Community Giving Committee.

Other recipients were organizations dealing with homelessness and helping families find and keep affordable housing. Among those groups was Homes with Hope, the Westport-based nonprofit that operates programs supporting people who need food and shelter.

Grants also were given to groups that help people with mental health issues, a concern that has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic, and to programs for people with disabilities, according to the Rotary.

Funds for the Westport Rotary grants are raised through the club’s annual “Lobsterfest” at Compo Beach. The popular event this year is scheduled for Sept. 23.

Members of the Community Giving Committee review each charity’s grant application on its merits and the number of people the gift is likely to help when deciding which proposals to accept and how much to allocate to each recipient.

The committee members include: Peter Helt, the chairman and incoming Westport Rotary president, and Kenny Epstein, Joe Nixon, Irwin Lebish, Leslie Roberts, Mark Agnew, Debbie DiBella and Ellin Curley.