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Dedication and Service

The Earliest Days
IVCG was founded in 1984 as a program under the auspices of Downtown Cooperative Ministries after the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation selected New Haven as one of the first 25 sponsored “Faith in Action” programs. This selection was a distinct honor for Interfaith Volunteers, as it was then competing with hundreds of other applicants. The $150,000 initial funding from the RWJ Foundation gave the program a “running start” as it embarked on its now 39-year history of providing care and friendship to seniors in the Greater New Haven area.

IVCG's original "faith in action" program model involved the recruitment of volunteers from local faith communities, who were in turn organized and supported by a professional coordinator. The coordinator reported to a board composed of the leaders of the supporting organizations. Services were provided free of charge to both elderly and disabled people, with religious proselytizing prohibited. The pilot program, started in 1984, proved successful. Of 25 original coalitions, all but one matured to become a viable interfaith coalition (and as of 2023, 15 of the original programs are still operating). 

In the first few months, IVCG shared space within the DCM office in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Olive Street in New Haven. Soon, the program found a home in the Center Church Parish House, where the program remained for the next eight years. IVCG's first Executive Director Carol LeSuer began her term with IVCG as its first, and only, employee. Under her direction, the program grew rapidly, adding many more dedicated employees and expanding its coalition of 12 DCM congregations to include 30 local faith partners. After eight years at the Center Church Parish House in downtown New Haven (where Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen operates today), the program finally outgrew the Church Center space and St. Rita’s R.C. Church in Hamden (now St. Paul VI Parish) generously offered IVCG a new home. By the time IVCG moved to St. Rita’s in 1992, it was overseeing a wide variety of programs, including an Alzheimer’s respite care program, intergenerational Caregivers, and Adopt-a-Grandparent.

Honoring our Past, Embracing our Future
Over the years, Downtown Cooperative Ministries, along with so many other New Haven social justice initiatives, broadened its membership. Recognizing the need to become more ecumenical, DCM became explicitly interfaith and re-named itself Interfaith Cooperative Ministries in 1995. With time, however, the original passion slipped away, as did its original founders. Today, many of the once-powerful downtown New Haven mainline churches are struggling with aging buildings, declines in membership, and the challenge of sustaining their own operations, much less financing extensive community support programs. Political differences took their toll, as did the fact that many of ICM's original mission projects were ultimately absorbed into state or local government agencies. In 2015, Interfaith Cooperative Ministries was officially laid to rest, although many of its programs survive, serving as a testament to the enduring legacy of DCM's commitment to social justice in the Greater New Haven community.

While the organizational entity paused, the heart of the Interfaith Volunteer concept lived on and IVCG became an independent non-profit in 2003. The area of senior service is constantly growing and changing, and we're staying flexible so we can respond creatively to the needs of our clients, whom we are blessed to serve.


From the Archives: IVCG's Original Logo
IVCG's original logo, pictured at right, was designed by Mary Louise Loring, an artist and long-time friend of the organization. The congregations pictured are representative of the original ecumenical and interfaith nature of IVCG's outreach. The design is symbolic of the opening of doors and relationships through IVCG. Mary Louise saw this opening working in two ways: through IVCG, the doors of congregations are open to all people and the doors of isolated seniors are open to an enhanced participation in life through relationships with volunteers. The circle enfolding the congregations represents the circle of God's love and the mutual care that develops between caregiver and "older friend." In this kind of relationship, the difference between care-giving and care-receiving is obscured, much like the beginning and end of a circle.

Pouring Sand
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