NEWINGTON - When the school year began it also marked a new start for a group of service-minded women educators in town.
The Newington chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa began its 2018-19 year by donating backpacks filled with school necessities to the Newington Department of Human Services. These were distributed to families that can’t afford to provide their children with supplies this year.
ADK’s 31 members are all women who teach or have taught in Newington schools, so this particular initiative was near and dear to their hearts.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to help children and needy people,” publicity chair Vita Paonessa said this week.
Paonessa retired three years ago from teaching fifth grade at John Wallace Middle School. In the time since, her involvement in ADK has preserved that bond with the school system.
“It keeps me in the loop,” explained Paonessa, who has been in ADK for the last 19 years. “I taught for 31 fun-filled years. I’ve had a good life and I’m ready to give back.”
Newington’s chapter was the very first to be established in Connecticut. The sorority came to be in 1955, as members dedicated themselves to educational excellence, world understanding and altruism.
Their longest-running event is the Military Whist, which will happen for the 37th year next April. A card game played in groups of four, participants rotate tables as they advance until only two teams remain.
Each year, ADK awards a scholarship to one female graduating senior at Newington High School who is pursuing education in college.
The whist is ADK’s most profitable annual fundraiser, with all proceeds going towards the scholarship fund.
This October the club will celebrate Teacher Appreciation Month by doing something special for teachers at each of the town’s seven public schools.
Come November, members will assemble Thanksgiving food baskets for people served by the Friendship Service Center in New Britain. These are individuals who recently escaped homelessness and are transitioning to permanent living situations. Baskets will include items like canned vegetables, coffee, grocery store gift cards and pie crust.
Toward the end of the month, members plan to volunteer in shifts with Feed My Starving Children, a Christian non-profit organization that coordinates the packaging and distribution of food to people in developing nations.
Ten days later they will reconvene for the annual Adopt-a-Family program, their largest effort all year.
“We usually adopt four Newington families who we buy holiday presents for,” Paonessa said. “We’ve been doing that for many, many years.”
Members spend a few thousand dollars on gifts for these families, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to enjoy presents during the holiday season. The Department of Human Services, which runs the town’s Holiday Gift Distribution, serves as the middle man between ADK and recipients.
Each of the aforementioned activities takes place every year, as long as teachers are able. However, another event will soon be added to their repertoire.
Ellen Repay, who recently retired from teaching at Ruth Chaffee Elementary School, suggested they make puppets to match the characters on young students’ reading lists. These will be delivered to schools in February.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.