By TAYLOR HARTZ
If you are in need of a helping hand, or are looking to lend one this holiday season, Southington Community Services (SCS) is the place to go.
Assisting more than 1,600 Southington residents through their holiday “adoption” program last year, SCS is determined to leave no resident in need.
Pooling resources from extra volunteers and additional workspace at the Army National Guard Armory and Factory Square, SCS offices are piled high with bags of gifts and baskets of food.
Between now and Christmas, more than 500 families will have supplies for holiday meals delivered to their door, and over 1,500 residents will pick up gifts to place under their tree.
While it may seem like the holidays just around the corner, it isn’t too late to help, and it isn’t too late to ask for help.
Mark Fazzolari, Community Services Assistant at SCS, said the organization is still looking for churches, businesses, and individuals to “adopt” those in need this season.
Long lists of residents who fit the minimum income required for the adoption program still line the shelves at SCS—whether it be a family of five hoping their children have presents to open, or a single senior citizen who is hoping for new socks and sheets this winter, SCS will make sure each Southington resident has what they need.
“We’ve had people tell us that if they didn’t get there gifts from here, their children would have no Christmas gifts,” said Fazzolari, “and we don’t want that to happen.”
Though over 1,000 have already signed up, Fazzolari said SCS will never turn away a family in need “even if they come right before we close our doors on Christmas Eve.”
Though not all those who sign up are adopted, volunteers and staff shop year round for commonly requested gifts like towels, sheets, and household appliances.
Anyone who hasn’t been adopted will receive gifts from SCS’s store of donations, or newly purchased items that staff and volunteers will shop for.
“No matter what the family’s income is, every kid should be able to look forward to Christmas and have a great experience,” said Fazzolari, “It shouldn’t matter if their parents are going through a hard time, they deserve to be happy at Christmas time just like their friends.”
Though toy donations are always needed for children in town, gift giving has no age limit at SCS.
Toddlers, teenagers, parents, and senior citizens are treated the same. SCS wants every Southington resident to feel just as relaxed and joyful this season.
In addition to wanting those of all ages to have a gift to open Christmas morning, SCS knows that for struggling parents, donated gifts can help them avoid hardship when paying their December bills.
“Parents really appreciate us providing these gifts because it frees up that money to be used for something else,” said Fazzolari.
While SCS staff and volunteers do their best to ensure all needs are met, the organization relies heavily on the community, and uses every donation the best they can. “We don’t help the people, it’s the community,” said SCS Director Janet Mellon, “we’re just the in between.”
Whether it be back-to-school supplies, Thanksgiving food bags, Easter baskets, or the 80-100 visits to the food pantry each day, Mellon said “the community makes it happen – it’s the businesses, the individuals, all the donations.”
Though their efforts are year round, Fazzolari said “right now we’re focused on getting everybody signed up and getting them the gifts and meals that they need.”
With trucks loading up this week to deliver food baskets, more than 500 families will have a full meal, desserts and snacks for their holiday dinners.
For the gift distribution program, Southington residents are still encouraged to adopt families or individuals for this Christmas, to drop off donations of common household items or toys, or volunteer their time to help distribute the gifts.
Nick Cutler, a retired member of the Southington Fire Department who has been volunteering with his wife each Christmas for five years, spends dozens of hours each winter organizing gift donations for SCS.
Last week, Cutler wandered up and down aisles at the Armory that are piled high with presents, as he checked off families who had been adopted.
Cutler said that each year “it really hits home” when he checks off each name on the list and realizes how many of his neighbors and friends are in need.
He said he loves giving back to the gift adoption program each year, and hopes more Southington residents will do the same.
“It makes them feel better and it gives them a little something to grab onto this time of year,” said Cutler of those who come to pick up holiday gifts, “It’s not going to solve everything, but it has got to help them some.”
Southington residents who are in need of assistance this holiday season are encouraged to schedule an appointment at SCS, where they will be asked to provide proof of residency and proof of income.
SCS provides everything from heating assistance to keep families warm to supplies for a Christmas meal.
“We’ll never turn anyone in need away,” said Fazzolari, “and every single penny is going to go to help somebody.”
Whether it be help avoiding an electricity shut-off, or gifts to put under the tree—SCS is making sure every Southington resident has a holiday season that is merry and bright.
Those who would like to adopt a family or individual for can visit the SCS offices at 91 Norton St. in Plantsville, where they will receive a form with a resident’s age, sizes, and three suggested gifts. Gifts will be distributed at the Armory on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. Any gift or food donations can be brought directly to SCS.