NEWINGTON – When it comes to preparation for a new school year, it takes a village.
Churchgoers, residents and local businesses banded together to collect enough supplies for several hundred Newington children, who will need them as they head back to school this fall.
The Chapel on New Britain Avenue took the reins of Newington Human Services’ Back-to-School Supply Drive. The church’s pastor Rev. Jim Wiltshire used his authority as an executive officer of the Newington Chamber of Commerce to harness help from businesses, which put out donation boxes and encouraged customers to contribute.
“I think we’re going to hit our goal of 325 bags,” Wiltshire said. “We’re feeling good about it.”
Backpacks of all colors, shapes and sizes have been filled with writing utensils, paper, folders, flash drives, ear-buds and other items teachers require of their students.
“Jim and The Chapel have mustered a lot of new resources for us this year,” Human Services Financial Coordinator Pam Wassik pointed out.
Donations were collected over the last month by Geico Insurance, Del Soul Spa, Staples, Hair on the Square, Karma’s Closet, Chick-fil-A, the Lucy Robbins Welles Library, American Eagle Credit Union, Judson Family Chiropractic, Turgeon Jewelers, and Ferrari’s Appliance. Additionally, Local Market, the First Church of Christ Congregational, Bank of America and other groups have made large donations to the cause.
“This is what you call community collaboration,” Wiltshire said. “Everyone says, hey, count me in! I love this town.”
All of the supplies are now inside his church, being sorted by volunteers and stuffed into backpacks by grade level.
Church members Chris and Michelle Beilleaux are among several people helping out..
“It’s Pastor’s vision to be community-oriented,” Chris said. “I feel like a lot of churches have let down their community by closing off to it. Not this one.”
“God has given us this time to help Pastor and help the community in whatever way possible,” Michelle added.
Wassik and fellow town staff are grateful to use the church facility as a central location for the drive, since Newington Town Hall is currently amidst a reconstruction project and office space is cramped.
“It’s all for the kids,” Wassik said. “You see how appreciative they are when they pick up their backpacks.”
The department distributed several hundred to families in Aug. 2018 and many more throughout the school year.
“A lot of parents are too embarrassed to ask for help,” she explained. “Teachers will call us and say they have a student in need of supplies. We also get referrals from the Newington Police Department.”
Families in town who have enough resources support the program. A boy named “David” who described himself as a nine-year-old fifth-grader put a hand-written letter inside the backpack donated by his family.
“If you think school is boring you will be surprised at how fun school will be next year,” it read. “I have donated this backpack to you and hope you can put it to good use. I hope you like your backpack and good luck in school.”
Back-to-School Distribution begins on Tuesday, Aug. 20. Families who are eligible based on set income guidelines should have received a letter in the mail from the town about the program.
The first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.