NEWINGTON - Human Services is moving full speed ahead into the holiday season, beginning with its Thanksgiving food distribution this week.
A total of 378 Newington households in need signed up to receive a Thanksgiving bird (turkey OR chicken) and ingredients to make all the fixings.
The distribution was set to take place Thursday, Nov. 19, in delivery and pick-up fashion.
“We’re doing about twice as many deliveries as last year,” Human Services Director Carol LaBrecque said Tuesday. “Obviously the pandemic adds a set of challenges and obstacles to this whole production, but we’re being very careful - following all protocols, wearing masks, distancing and wearing gloves,” she added.
Families who came to pick-up their packages of food were instructed to follow signs through the library parking lot to Town Hall, where volunteers were ready to place bags in their vehicles in a contactless manner.
Volunteers were scheduled to work staggered shifts in order to minimize the amount of interaction they had with each other and the public, according to LaBrecque.
“Our volunteers are amazing and have been so supportive,” she pointed out.
Some people who give of themselves every year have returned again, while others are taking a year off due to the health risks associated with potential exposure to covid-19. New volunteers have also stepped up.
In general, the department is handling a lot more cases this year. Services and assistance are provided to people who are struggling financially and/or emotionally.
Instead of meeting people in person, staff have been conducting all business via telephone and video calls.
“People were able to maintain for the first few months of the pandemic, and now we’re seeing folks that are more affected in a long term way,” LaBrecque said. “We’re doing our best to connect people with resources and assist them when we can.”
The department is also gearing up for the 2020 Holiday Gift Distribution, with a speedy turnaround right after Thanksgiving.
In past years, this program would typically take place inside Town Hall, where families would “shop” for gifts on tables set up by staff and volunteers, also taking home requested gifts for specific family members. This year, the pandemic has altered plans a bit.
“People will be scheduled to come in at some point over the course of those four days,” LaBrecque explained. “They’ll park and call our office and we’ll have volunteers ready to bring their gifts out.”
She anticipates by December there will be just over 400 households registered, or close to 1,000 people.
Gifts will primarily be in the form of gift cards this year, instead of toys or specific items.
The deadline for donations is Dec. 11. Distribution will take place Dec. 15-18 outside Town Hall. Sponsors are needed. Contact Newington Human Services at 860-665-8590 if you are able to help.
“It’s been a challenge with the pandemic but the Newington community is really very supportive of this program,” LaBrecque said. “People have already come forward with financial donations, also bringing in food and gift cards.”
Following the Thanksgiving distribution, the shelves of the Newington Food Bank will be bare and need replenishing. To schedule a time to drop off donations, call 860-665-8590.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.