NEWINGTON - With a little over two weeks until Christmas, the town is still hoping to match about 150 struggling residents with gifts.
The Department of Human Services’ annual holiday distribution will reach around 400 households or 1,000 individuals this year. But that’s only if a few more interested donors step up to fulfill the requests of remaining families by Dec. 15, when distribution is set to begin.
“We’re moving fast and furious,” Human Services Director Carol LaBrecque said this week.
Staff interviewed members of each household to collect their gift requests around the $30 range. The Newington Police Department hosted a Stuff-a-Cruiser at Walmart this past weekend, collecting toys from shoppers and people who dropped off items. Businesses and local civic organizations deliver gifts and monetary donations to the department. Some residents also make annual contributions a family tradition.
“I am so grateful to every aspect of the community that gets involved,” LaBrecque said. “The whole community really responds.”
Despite the outpouring of generosity, much of it benefits kids, not adults.
“We typically get a lot of gifts for younger children,” LaBrecque explained. “We still need gifts for teens and adults.”
This can even be generic in nature, like a gift card, small appliance or gadget.
Individuals and couples - many elderly or disabled - come to Newington Town Hall on Dec. 15 to pick up gifts. Families with children come on Dec. 19 to get theirs and explore a room of “stocking stuffers” that staff and volunteers have set up for them.
This Saturday, the Newington Volunteer Fire Department and Newington Emergency Medical Services will be hosting a Stuff-a-Truck at Stop & Shop on Fenn Road to collect non-perishable food and gift items. Volunteers will be there from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Company 3 Fire Captain Craig Stegmaier is running the event.
“The Newington Fire Department prides itself on being great community partners, coordinating with local businesses and organizations to benefit our community,” he said. “These events happen throughout the year and not just through Stuff-a-Truck events. It is important for us as an organization to help the community.”
As a volunteer department, it’s in members’ nature to serve fellow residents in all different capacities, he pointed out.
“Volunteer firefighters take pride in their communities. Neighbors helping neighbors is pretty much the reason why people volunteer to be firefighters. The ancillary things like Stuff-a-Truck and events that go beyond firefighting is a source of pride among our members.”
Human Services recently gave out 375 Thanksgiving meals to families who use the Newington Food Bank. Now the shelves in the pantry are bare, LaBrecque said.
“In particular we need items that people can’t purchase with SNAP benefits, like paper products, household cleaners and hygiene items.”
Volunteers have been busy the past few weeks, organizing donations and preparing gift packages inside town hall.
Touria Lemfarrege joined Maryjane Fitzpatrick and Cathy Fletcher one recent day, wrapping small stocking stuffers.
“The three of us have never met before and here we are, having a nice time,” Fitzpatrick pointed out as they worked.
“It’s nice to be around people with the holiday spirit,” Lemfarrege added. “I love this season.”
Donations can be dropped off at town hall, 131 Cedar St. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 860-665-8590 with questions.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.