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Westport's CLASP Homes Holds Out Hope

A wheelchair accessible van, one that doesn't leak in the rain: That's how CLASP Homes, Inc. of Westport would spend the $10,000 grand prize from the Santa's Wish List competition , said CLASP president Tracy Flood.

"It has been used until there's nothing left. It's just a mess," Tracy said of the van the nonprofit is looking to replace. "We found a second-hand van that only has about 40,000 miles and is reasonably priced, so we're going for it."

Although currently in third place, staff at the nonprofit, which serves about 80 people with developmental disabilities and autism, are optimistic. And while winning the $10,000 grand prize would be a dream come true, Tracy said the organization is grateful to have made it to the final round.

"Any money we can get will be helpful for sure," she said.

Founded by parents who had concerns about what would happen to their developmentally disabled children when they got older and needed a place to live, CLASP opened its first group home in 1982 on Kings Highway in Westport.

Now, there are 12 CLASP homes, including four in Westport, and nine apartments scattered around Fairfield County. They serve people between 21 and 72 years old, Tracy said.

CLASP also offers a variety of programs and services,  including the Career and Community Options program and the Pet Companion program. But CLASP does more than give its residents a helping hand.

"We become a second family to our residents, and for some, we are their only family," said Robin Hammond, development director.

As such, staff members work hard to create a happy environment for their residents, holding dance and other parties when they can. But everything they do requires funding.

"We are underfunded by the state, like many organizations are, and we aren't receiving as much support from families as we have in the past," Robin said. "This [competition] is a great way for people to support us: All they have to do is vote."

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