By Lisa Capobianco
About 50 families in need walk through the doors of Southington Community Services on a daily basis to receive bags of food and other donations, according to Assistant Mark Fasarrelli. In response to this growing need, The Giving Back Girls, a local community involvement group, decided to lend more than a dozen hands.
Created in 2010 by soon-to-be high school freshman Erin Gibney, The Giving Back Girls took over the Southington Smart Start Program last year, giving more than 350 backpacks to children in need throughout the town. Each backpack has school supplies, gift cards to Walmart and gift certificates for a haircut. With the mentorship of The Arc of Southington, a nonprofit organization that supports people with disabilities, The Giving Back Girls now collect back-to-school supplies to fill each backpack they donate. This year the back-to-school program will take place August 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and August 21 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Derynoski Elementary School.
The girls’ commitment brings a smile to everyone who works at Southington Community Services.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this on our own,” Fasarelli said. “We’d be lost without all the help we get from the community.”
Tricia Gibney, Erin’s mother, oversees all of her daughters’ programs. Gibney, who also advertises for The Giving Back Girls, thinks the group’s community involvement has made a positive impact on all of its 22 members.
“It really has been an eye-opening experience for all these girls to see how many people they’re helping… in our community,” she said.
The Southington Smart Start Program is not the only initiative these girls are actively involved in. This year they have been holding quarterly drives at Walmart where shoppers receive a list of items that Southington Community Services need. The fire department helps the girls by loading the items on one of their trucks. Then the girls weigh the items at Southington Community Services.
The girls also organized the first “Fill that Military Truck” drive to help raise supplies for troops and raised donations through a bake sale, holiday bazaar and pancake breakfast to adopt a family in need during the Christmas season. During the holidays they bake fresh cookies for the Summit Nursing Facility and sing Christmas Carols.
“Young kids can start something good…it keeps them busy and it gives back to the community,” Gibney said.
Gibney hopes to recruit more youngsters for The Giving Back Girls, so the group will continue after its current members move on to high school and college. She said that although Southington is an affluent town overall, it is important for children to understand that there are still other people in need.
“It may not be the person who is poor all year round, but it may be the person who just lost a job and has to take care of the family,” she said.
By Lisa Capobianco