By Lisa Capobianco
With the holiday season and colder weather in full-swing, Southington Community Services has stocked up on gifts and donations for residents in need.
Community Services has recently kicked off its annual “Adopt a Family” for Christmas, with over 50 volunteers and growing. Mark Fazzolari, the assistant director at Community Services, said the amount of people wanting to participate in the cause is continuous. Families, schools, businesses and churches have shared their holiday joy, signing up to buy gifts for anonymous families in need, he said.
“We have received a lot of calls from the community,” Fazzolari said.
For Fazzolari, seeing how the cause has a positive impact on volunteers serves as a rewarding experience.
“They just love seeing the kids’ faces,” said Fazzolari, who added that families who receive gifts one year will give back the year after through donations. “We appreciate all the help we get from the community.”
For Southington Community Services volunteer Robin Taillie, participating in Adopt-a-Family serves as a rewarding experience for her. A participant in the program for the past five years, Taillie said she decided to get involved because she sees the need to give back to the less fortunate on a daily basis.
“It is great. I usually try to be there on the day of the gift distribution,” said Taillie, who has adopted a family of five this year. “When you see the looks on their faces, they just cannot believe the generosity.”
Adopt a Family serves as just one way Community Services gives back during the holidays. As the temperatures get colder, more people may need heating assistance. Currently, Fazzolari said Community Services has helped fill out 500 applications overall for heating assistance, and the number grows every year.
According to Community Services’ website, people who need heating assistance must bring copies of full 30-day bank statements for all accounts that show current balances, a bank statement with a logo, proof of all stocks, CDs, bonds, and IRA’s (for applicants age 59 or older), and a rent receipt and lease if the rent includes heat. For proof of primary source of heat, residents who have oil must have the name of their vendor and ensure that it participates in the program. Residents with Yankee Gas or Electric must have their current Yankee Gas or CL&P bill. The bill must have the name of a family member age 18 or older who lives at the current address of the applicant’s home.
Besides an increase in heating assistance, Community Services has also seen a growing need for food assistance. Although it has not affected Southington directly yet, the recent cut in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits is estimated to be $5 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). From November 2013 through September 2014, the cut equals $29 per month for a family of three, reported CBPP. According to CBPP’s website, the cut will affect 424,000 SNAP recipients in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 in Connecticut alone.
“A few people came with questions, but the town has not really been affected by it yet,” Fazzolari said.
Fazzolari said close to 70 families walk through the doors of Community Services daily to receive bags of groceries. But Community Services plans to hold more food drives, with the help of different businesses in town.
Within the last three months, civic groups, businesses, and families have also reached out with donations for “Adopt a Shelf,” piling a shelf with a variety of food.
“Every couple of weeks we are getting a new shelf,” Fazzolari said. “We could not do it without the support of the community.”