Fairfield County ushers back Counties Assemblies winter dances


nfographic by Allie Gillman ’23

The Counties Assemblies nonprofit organization is encouraging upperclassmen at Fairfield County schools to purchase tickets for their annual charity dances, in anticipation of the Nov. 20 registration deadline. I

The Counties Assemblies non-profit organization will throw its annual winter balls after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Students must meet the registration deadline – Sunday, Nov. 20 – in advance of the dances in order to secure tickets to attend. 

“We need everybody to start thinking more about the fact that the deadline is coming up and that they need to jump onto our website and register,” Counties Assemblies President Michele Modugno said.

The Counties Assemblies is celebrating its 85th anniversary holding the dances, which have become a rite of passage for Fairfield County teens to experience a formal black-tie event. The organization also hopes to teach students about philanthropy and fundraising, as it uses event proceeds to provide grants to charitable organizations around Fairfield County that help children, teenagers and their families.

Through the Counties balls, Modugno aims to help charities return to full operation after COVID-related setbacks. Several organizations suffered from underfunding, while others have board members who contracted COVID and were unable to serve in their positions.

“I know there’s a lot more issues with mental health [after COVID] and we focus on helping everybody in Fairfield County,” Counties Assemblies Grant Chair Lauren Prario said. “It’s not just a dance, it’s a fundraiser in order to get grants out to charities in our county.”

It’s about the dances bringing you all together. This brings you all together to have a great time and raise money for your peers, children and teens that live among us.

— Michele Modugno

The Counties Assemblies encourages charities to apply for grant funding through an application and invites members of the community to recommend specific charities deserving of funds. In addition to COVID and mental health services, the Counties Assemblies supports organizations that provide food and shelter to individuals and families in need around Fairfield County, including the Gillespie Center in Westport and Filling in the Blanks in Norwalk.

Jet Tober ’23 expressed his feeling of empowerment from his contributions to the Counties Assemblies.

“The mission of the Counties Assemblies incentivizes me to go [to the dance] because I know that my attendance can make a difference in the community,” Tober said. “It is a great way to help those in need while making senior year memories after having been in the COVID pandemic for so much of our high school experience.”

Student ambassadors are an active element of the Counties Assemblies mission. Each town in Fairfield County comprises a group of student ambassadors, who serve as a student voice in the selection process of grant-recipients, distribute invitations for the Counties Balls in late fall and participate in other charitable activities around Fairfield County.

The organization participates in a prom dress drive for students in Bridgeport. Student ambassadors collected the donated dresses themselves and brought them to the drop-off locations in Westport and Fairfield, or worked at the drop-off locations themselves. Modugno hopes to increase the number of drop-off locations around Fairfield County.

“With schools like Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde, Staples, Wilton High School and Weston High School, we’re going to see if we can go over the top with the amount of dresses we can collect,” Modugno said. 

Before the Counties Assemblies started helping women and girls dress up for dances, they worked to empower them. Historically, it was traditional for men to invite women to the dances. Today, the Counties Assemblies has put emphasis on a woman’s ability to invite her escort, and more broadly, the fact that any couple is welcome at the events. 

Meanwhile, many students remain unsure about attending the dances. Lexi Gay ’24 remarked on the opportunity the dances provide to have fun and release the pressure.

“I would tell people that all their friends will be there,” Gay said. “The point of the dance is to have fun […] it’s a normal high school experience that [someone] might regret not taking advantage of.”

Modugno and Prario look forward to celebrating the Counties Assemblies’ 85th anniversary and continuing the organization’s traditions of philanthropy and community fun.

“It’s about the dances bringing you all together,” Modugno said. “This brings you all together to have a great time and raise money for your peers, children and teens that live among us.”