Conversations on the Green donates to local, national groups

Conversations on the Green in Litchfield County has announced it has donated $70,000 to help local and national charities on the front lines of the ongoing battle against the coronavirus.

The group of volunteers that make up COG produces an eponymously named television talk show. This year, it was forced to cancel all its live events by the pandemic.

“It is an honor to recognize these charities with these annual awards,” said Anne Fuchs, chairman of Conversations On the Green’s Board of Directors. “While our country suffers through the Covid-19 calamity, it is more imperative than ever to acknowledge the deep commitment, innovation and vision of all of those who focus on helping our vulnerable neighbors and fellow citizens.”

Conversations On the Green said it is giving $10,000 to the American Nurses Foundation Coronavirus Response Fund, the Maryland-based foundation that supports nurses fighting the ongoing pandemic around the country; and $20,000 each to three Litchfield County charities that work with the area’s most vulnerable residents - New Milford Hospital, Greenwoods Counseling Referrals, the Litchfield-based mental health group that provides free and low cost mental health services, and the Susan B. Anthony Project, the Torrington-based domestic violence shelter.

“That’s absolutely wonderful, what a huge blessing,” said Ted Bent, Greenwoods’ board president. “The need for our mental health services has never been greater and this gift will help us help many of our most vulnerable neighbors in this time of crisis.”

“In that sense, we see this donation as a gift to us all, to the entire community, and we’re immensely grateful to COG and all its supporters,” Bent said.

Jeanne Fusco, the executive director of Susan B. Anthony Project, echoed Bent’s comments.

“This is a time of great need,” she said. “The pandemic takes a toll on all kinds of families. We’re serving more people in the community than ever before and these funds will help us to continue our work. We thank all of COGs donors.”

COG, a federally recognized charity charged with building civic engagement and education, raised the $70,000 through its ongoing speakers’ series, a cross between the “PBS News Hour” and a New England town hall.

Panelists, all of whom donated their time, this year included a who’s who of the country’s most prominent headliners: Nobel laureates in economics Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, the iconic restaurateur Danny Meyer, the historian Jon Meacham, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, humanitarian and New York Times Columnist Nick Kristof, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid, among others.

The speakers series is akin to a dinner conversation among erudite guests.

It was founded eight years ago to raise money for Greenwoods and has expanded year-by-year.

A Connecticut icon that attracted audiences from Maine to Pennsylvania, it was picked up two years ago by Connecticut Public Television, which broadcasts all COG events up across the state and makes them available to public television stations around the country.

When the pandemic struck this spring, COG cancelled its signature in-person events and went virtual, distributing the interviews through a live stream and, a week or so later, on Connecticut Public Television.

But it retained many of the features that makes it unique, the only television interview show that talks with the audience instead of at it.

Viewers of the live stream program can ask questions or post comments in the program’s chat box or can call in on any telephone. Or, in advance of each show, viewers can send in video questions that are aired during the program.

The series, which airs once a month from May through October, is hosted by Jane Whitney, who often has been heralded for her “earthy sensibility” and her unique affinity for connecting with audiences.

A Washington resident, she hosted the nationally syndicated TV program "The Jane Whitney Show" for Warner Bros and has anchored broadcasts for PBS, CNN and CNBC.

Previously, she was a correspondent for NBC News based in Central America as well as a reporter for "Entertainment Tonight." Her political columns and social commentaries have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek and The New York Observer.

COG is currently on hiatus and is seeking donors and volunteers to help with organizing its ninth season, which will begin in late April.

To participate or donate, visit www.conversationsonthegreen.com.