By SHERIDAN CYR
What does it mean to give? One Southington resident recently shared her personal story on a local Facebook group, and she gave The Observer permission to share it.
Ashleigh Simpson moved to town almost 10 years ago with her two children, and the family went through financial difficulties at the time.
“We had some very dark days, and keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table was a daunting task on one income,” she said. “During that time of my life, the holidays were far from magical. There literally was no extra money for Christmas gifts or special holiday meals.”
That all changed when her family was enrolled in the Southington High School Cares program, which allows families to anonymously assist other SHS families in need.
“I will never forget the day I came to the school and loaded up my car with bags full of gifts for children,” Simpson said. “That day changed my life. Santa WAS real…and lived in the hearts of strangers in my community.”
Simpson encouraged residents to reach out to local programs and find out how you can help spread some holiday joy this season. She said, “You will, in fact, change someone’s life.”
Thanksgiving typically marks the start of the holiday season, but local charity groups are already in high gear, scrambling to meet the needs of the Southington community.
People associate the holidays with flashy gifts, a big meal, and a warm, cozy spot by the fireplace. But according to local charity groups, there are a lot of families that are struggling just to get by. For many, “holiday spirit” is a struggle.
According to officials at Southington Community Services, their volunteers are always accepting donations to service Southington residents. Janet Mellon, director, said SCS actually fell short in their Thanksgiving collection and had to pay $7,000 to match their goals.
“Because of that, we are really hoping for some more support for Christmas,” said Mellon. SCS is still in need of many nonperishable items such as canned yams, boxes of mashed potatoes, canned gravy, stuffing mix and other traditional holiday dinner items.
Other immediate needs that SCS regularly falls short on are kids snacks, canned meat (such as beef stew and canned raviolis), toiletries, bathrobes and slippers.
On Saturday of last week, SCS delivered gift baskets with Thanksgiving items to local senior clients in senior housing. On Monday, residents came to pick up their baskets at the Armory.
But there’s no time to rest. SCS is already gearing up for Christmas when they partner with ESPN volunteers to hand-deliver gift baskets and donated coats to families in need.
In addition, SCS has coordinated with two local restaurants, the Pepper Pot and Smoking with Chris, for personalized gifts for needy families. Each restaurant has displayed a small tree in their stores, decorated with paper ornaments and wish-list items from local families. Customers are invited to take an ornament and provide the gift item for the drive.
Bread for Life is also working on a few projects to aid struggling Southington residents this holiday season. Last Saturday, the ovens were running all afternoon as teens from their Kids Who Care program cooked up 60 apple pies which were sold to raise funds for Bread for Life operations.
On Sunday, their Families Feeding Friends group baked mini pies for BFL individual clients.
Apples were donated by Rogers Orchards, and crumb topping was donated by Paul Gregory’s.
“We’re really having fun with the pie-baking,” said Missy Cipriano, administrative director. “The kids get to have fun, to help out, and they feel really good about it.”
BFL is currently collecting toiletry items for gift bags to go to clients. Items such as shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, are greatly appreciated.
Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts have a number of programs this time of year that seek to help those less fortunate. On Nov. 11, the scouts from the Sleeping Giant District (Southington, Wallingford, Meriden, North Haven and Hamden) collected 38,813 lbs of non-perishable food items as part of their 29th annual “Scouting for Food” program.
Southington, alone, collected 15,585 lbs, to break the record for highest collections by any town in the 29-year history of the program. These items were sorted by scouts and donated to Bread for Life and Southington Community Services.
Southington Cub Scout Pack 8 met over the weekend to kick off a variety of service projects, reported den leader Windham Vance. They crafted no-sew blankets for Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and are collecting calendars as part of S.T.E.P.S. 2018 Calendar Drive to be given to residents of the veterans’ home. The Bear Den is also setting up a giving tree with items needed by the veterans. Each family will be asked to return one item at the December pack meeting.
The pack is also making holiday cards that will be given to Mulberry Gardens residents when the pack goes holiday caroling on Dec. 20.
- To donate to Southington Community Services, visit them at 91 Norton St. in Plantsville or call at (860) 628-3761.
- To donate to Bread for Life (southingtonbreadforlife. org) visit them at their facility at 31 Vermont St. or call them at (860) 276-8389.
- To donate to the in the Southington High School Cares program, contact Southington High School-at (860) 628-3229
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Photos by SHERIDAN CYR