United for Gemma Benefit Gala will raise funds for ongoing operations of the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut will hold its inaugural United for Gemma Benefit Gala on Thursday, October 12, 2023, at the Mashantucket Pequot Research Center and Museum from 5:30-8:30 p.m. to raise funds to support the Gemma Legacy Fund. The Fund will collectively create sustainable support for the ongoing operation of the Food Center program named after its founder Gemma Moran.
This year also marks the 35th anniversary of the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center (Food Center). The program began in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in 1988 at the Uncas on Thames campus in Norwich. It provided food to six member agencies with the equivalent of 360,000 meals.
Now, the Food Center is housed in a 20,000-square-foot warehouse in New London with multiple walk-in freezers and refrigerators, more than 70 member agencies, and a Mobile Pantry program to bring food directly to families in need. Last year, the equivalent of more than 1.8 million meals were distributed.
In May 2023, Moran passed away at the age of 99. Through her work at United Way of Southeastern Connecticut as the region’s first Labor Liaison beginning in 1973, Gemma saw families in the community struggling to put food on their tables. “You can’t be productive on an empty belly,” Moran once said.
Her determination to help, along with the support of Labor and United Way, led to the formation of the Food Center program. It is the local food bank serving all of New London County.
“Her passion to feed those experiencing food insecurity was the impetus for the creation of our Food Center program which is aptly named after her,” said Dina Sears-Graves, President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. “Gemma’s work in our community is a reminder that one person can inspire others to act and make lasting community change. 
The Gemma Legacy Fund will ensure that Moran’s legacy continues as United Way, its donors and volunteers work together to eliminate food insecurity for all in southeastern Connecticut.
Individual tickets, tables of ten, sponsorship opportunities, and program booklet ads are available. Go to www.uwsect.org/united-gemma-benefit-gala.
This event is presented by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Other sponsors to date are:

  • Gold Level: MDA-UAW Local 571
  • Silver Level: Charter Oak Federal Credit Union
 United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is a locally-based non-profit organization supporting a network of health and human services, programs, and initiatives in New London County that work together to help people in need and improve community conditions. Supported programs make an impact in four areas: Basic Needs; Community Wellness; Promoting Independence; and Thriving Children and Youth.
United Way operates the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center which provides food to a network of free emergency food programs in New London County and a Mobile Pantry, at no cost to those in need. United Way supports 2-1-1 Connecticut for free information and referral 24/7 and Project Warm-up for one-time, emergency heating assistance. Visit United Way online at www.uwsect.org.