K elly Turner Cole’s Breakfast and a Movie series is a blockbuster event, bringing together thousands of ravenous moviegoers and many selfless volunteers at five movie theaters all on the same day. The screening-and-meal fundraisers support C.H.A.I.N., a non-profit which helps pay living expenses for cancer patients who are unable to work or in financial need.
The lines for BAAM form well before their 8:30 a.m. start times. Cole proudly relates that even while the event was exploding in popularity, she was still able to mobilize enough staff to cook and serve 850 people “in one hour flat.”
Given those numbers and that level of efficiency, it’s startling to visit the C.H.A.I.N. offices on Shelton Avenue in New Haven and find Kelly Turner Cole there alone. She’s the only staff member of the non-profit organization she founded a decade ago, thereby maximizing the amount of money which can go directly to helping clients. “People think we’re this big, federally funded organization. They don’t realize it’s just me.”
Until last month, Cole was running the charity with whatever time was not
Breakfast and a Movie:
Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds
to benefit the C.H.A.I.N. Fund
8:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at participating theaters:
Holiday Stadium 14 | Palace 17 | Marquis 16 | Regent 8
devoted to her career as a New Haven police officer. She retired from the NHPD on Jan. 6, and says “after ten years of multi-tasking, using all my vacations and days off to work on C.H.A.I.N, being here still feels like a day off from the Police Department. They’re still calling me about various things, where to find things,” she laughs.
C.H.A.I.N. stands for “Compassionate Hands Assisting Interim Needs,” and was inspired by the substantial help Cole herself received from fellow officers when she had to undergo treatments for breast cancer. During that difficult time, she met other cancer patients who did not have the support systems she was fortunate enough to have, and she determined to do something that would assist people in a meaningful way.
Breakfast and a Movie—a title which Cole has trademarked—is just one of several clever C.H.A.I.N. fundraising ideas. A cute piece of jewelry shaped like a sparkly pink
handbag caught on nationally, paying C.H.A.I.N.’s administrative costs for a year and a half. Then came events such as the “Hat Brunch” (where cancer survivors share their stories), the “Ride 2 Provide” motorcycle ride and park festival in June, and the Black Tie Gala (which hasn’t happened for a few years because “it got too big,” Cole says, but will return this year to mark C.H.A.I.N.’s 10th anniversary).
But it’s Breakfast and a Movie that put C.H.A.I.N.’s name up in lights. Cole studies up on upcoming films, picks one that suits her charitable needs, then plans an elaborate breakfast buffet—“eggs, grits, sausage, bacon, everything”—to accompany an early morning screening on the Saturday of the movie’s opening weekend.
She’s done particularly well with Tyler Perry titles, so the February 25 event—at four theaters in Connecticut plus a new BAAM participant in Springfield, Mass.—will screen Perry’s new drama Good Deeds, about a successful businessman in search of meaning who finds his life changed by an encounter with a young cleaning woman in his office.
Since all BAAM screenings happen at the same time, each location must have enough chefs and volunteers to serve hundreds of breakfasts. For the first eight years, the breakfast foods were all provided by C.H.A.I.N. Now they’re donated by the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.
“I just did not see this happening,” says Kelly Turner Cole as she marvels at Breakfast and a Movie’s breakthrough as a charitable powerhouse. A BAAM chapter recently started in Georgia, and now several other states are clamoring to join up. “More people know about it than know about the C.H.A.I.N. fund.” For now, at least.