Meet your neighbors... Maia Sapanski and Nancy Daniels, of the Young Women’s League
NEW CANAAN — Maia Sapanski and Nancy Daniels moved to New Canaan in the last decade and were met warmly after joining the Young Women’s League of New Canaan.
The League, as Saparanski, president of the board of directors, and Daniels, co-vice president of ways and means, call it, is a nonprofit organization with 130 members that raises funds and distributes grants to local charities. It is also a social organization that helps women from New Canaan and elsewhere to meet.
It is through the League that both have met many of their friends and also through the League that both hope to make a positive impact on the town.
This Saturday, Saparanski, 32, and Daniels, 42, will oversee the inaugural Fall Into New Canaan, a town-wide event in which downtown merchants will donate 15 percent of profits to the League to benefit New Canaan Meals on Wheels.
Q: How did you become involved with the Young Women’s League? How long have you been involved?
MS: I joined the league when I first moved to town. I didn’t have kids yet and I heard that Newcomers, which is a fabulous local organization, was better to do once you had kids. So I heard about the Young Women’s League and I’m really passionate about service and giving back to the community. I feel like we’re really lucky where we live, but even in our own town there are people who really need our help. I’ve been a member for about six years now.
N: This is my second year on the board and my third year on the league.
Q: Where are you originally from?
MS: Originally from Oregon, and then Las Vegas. I went to school in Ohio and then lived in Brooklyn and then moved up here.
ND: We’ve been in New Canaan three years in July. Most recently we came from New York City.
Q: Have you always wanted to be involved in nonprofits?
MS: I did Teach for America in the city and did a lot of volunteer work. I think when I moved here I thought there was a need and I’m an able-bodied person, so I might as well. It’s definitely something I’m passionate about.
Q: How many members are there in the League?
MS: We have 130 women in our league. What’s great is it crosses a lot of the lines you find with people in New Canaan.
Even though it’s of New Canaan, we welcome people from other towns as well. We have lots of working women who may not have kids, women with preschool or babies, all the way up with high-schoolers. So you get to meet people kind of at the next step ahead of you or who are doing other things.
Q: What is your mission?
MS: We’re a service-based, local organization. So we have the service component.
We do our fundraising for our future beneficiaries. So every year we have a pretty extensive grant review cycle and that theme rotates. This year happens to be women, so “Strong women, strong communities” is our theme. Last year we gave $120,000 away to 22 local organizations. So typically we have four fundraising events for those future beneficiaries, this year we added Fall Into New Canaan, which is the fifth.
In addition, we do two adult and two kids events.
The adult ones are Cirque Noir, which is a black-tie gala that we have at Waveny House in October and this year a Kentucky Derby party in May. Our kids events are our 45th annual Easter Egg Hunt. And we just started last year with the Little Ram Service League, which is a way to provide service opportunities to preschool and elementary-age children.
Then there is the social piece where we have four meetings a year. We do wine and usually have a panel of speakers. Our first meeting is Sept. 13 and we have a panel of safety experts talking about disaster preparedness and emergency plans, talking about how to keep your home and car safe. And we also do a wine tasting, a cooking class, a tennis social — Just stuff to bond.
Q: It’s called the Young Women’s League — is there an age cutoff?
MS: I was the new member chair a few years ago and I can’t tell you how many people would send me an email asking. We just went through a rebrand and we looked into getting rid of the “young,” because we really are just the women’s league.
Our members range from late 20s, early-30s, all the way up through early-50s. There’s no age limit at all. We find that people tend to do it for about five years, and then they usually find an organization through us that they’re really passionate about.
Q: You joined right when you got to New Canaan. Was it helpful in terms of networking?
MS: Absolutely. Some of my best friends I never would’ve met if I hadn’t done this.
ND: The great thing is you meet women who have kids, who don’t have kids, women who work, don’t work, have older kids, younger kids. You meet more than you would just at your kid’s school. You meet a really nice cross-section of women and you meet women who are like-minded and who want to volunteer and give back, which is really nice.
Q: Where did the Fall Into New Canaan idea originate?
MS: We get a lot of requests to do individual events at stores in town because our members are young and we like to shop. We got so many that we had to be really selective. But, there were a lot of store closings recently and it just felt like we needed to do something to give back to our community. Our businesses are so supportive of us and we wanted to do something for them.
ND: It’s been great working with Tucker (Murphy) and Laura (Budd), they’ve been so helpful. And I feel like everybody’s been so receptive to the idea and really eager to do it.
Q: How many stores are participating?
MS: Fifty and counting. They’ve all agreed to give 15 percent of their proceeds to our Giving Fund, which supports Meals and Wheels. If they’re having a sale, great, but we’re just asking people to come and do their shopping in town. And the parking commissioners gave us free parking for the day.
Q: Aside from shopping, what else will be going on?
MS: We also got permission from the Police Commission to put the Pop-Up Park back up for the day and we have stores and people doing stuff all day in the park.
We’re also doing a “Scarecrow Scavenger” hunt in all the stores. So there will be mini scarecrows in all of the participating stores. There’s a sheet the kids can pick up and when they’re shopping with their parents, if they see a scarecrow they can get a sticker. They can turn that in at the Pop-Up Park for a prize.
We’re also doing a “Scarecrow Fest,” so we’re going to line Elm Street with scarecrows. Families can buy a kit on Sept. 9, decorate it and then those will be hung the last two weeks of October. It’s a $30 donation and the winners will be announced at the Halloween parade.
Q: What do you hope is the result of Fall Into New Canaan?
ND: I think for our first year we’re just super excited about getting the word out about it and the town spirit. I think we do a lot for a small organization — we give out a lot of money — but I don’t think people are aware how much we give away.