No summer break for community services: Food pantry donations and holiday planning are year-round commitments

91 Norton St, Plantsville, CT 06479
Phone: (860) 628-3761

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

For many, summer is a time to kick back, relax, and hit the beach with an ice cold drink in one hand and a favorite book in the other. But at Southington Community Services, it’s all hands on deck.

Food pantry needs take no vacation, and SCS volunteers are already gearing up for back to school and the holiday needs that immediately follow.

SCS director Janet Mellon said there is often a shortfall in certain items throughout the year, such as kid snacks, canned meals (soups, canned spaghetti, and ravioli), rice, jelly, pasta and cereal. Even in the summer, donations are welcome.

“These kinds of pantry items are always a need for us for every-day use,” she said.

Additionally, SCS is in the midst of their yearly backpack and school supplies collection drive. Locals are encouraged to reach out to SCS and apply if school supplies are a need in their family. Donated backpacks are stuffed with supplies and handed out to students.

Mellon said SCS sees more child backpacks donated, but pointed out that high school students need backpacks, too. Last year, around 320 backpacks were handed out.

SCS is also starting the “adopt a family” program in August and looking for applications from families in need. Families work with SCS to make a list of holiday gift items that they can’t afford on their own. Then, residents can come in, choose a random and anonymous family, and get those gifts for them. Local businesses are also able to obtain a small decorative Christmas tree with paper ornaments that list a family enrolled in the program so that customers can choose a family to help.

And, although the holidays are far from most people’s minds, SCS is already gearing up for those needs, too.

“It’s like Christmas in July,” said Mellon. “We’re now looking for holiday food donations, and before you know it, we’ll be making our Thanksgiving baskets to give to families.”

Each year, Thanksgiving baskets are composed by staff and volunteers at SCS with donated items. Some of those items that SCS is currently seeking include: turkey gravy, yams, sweet potatoes, stuffing, canned potatoes, hot chocolate, corn muffin mix, cranberry sauce and canned creamed corn. It’s never too early for most non-perishable items.

Each year, families and individuals in need are encouraged to apply for assistance through SCS. This year, just before the holiday, SCS will be accompanied by volunteers from ESPN and Rogers Orchards at the Southington Armory for a “winter boutique.” While families wait in line for their baskets of donated food, they will be able to peruse through donated clothing items, and will have a chance to speak with a representative who will provide information on a free cell phone assistance program for those who financially qualify.

“This is something different that we haven’t done before. In the past, people have just waited in line to receive their baskets, but this will give them something to do while they wait,” said Mellon. “Now, they can browse through some clothing and possibly get a phone, too. I think it will be really nice for our residents who have that need.”

In order to make that possible, SCS is already looking for winter clothing donations such as coats, hats and gloves.

To find out how you can pitch in, visit SCS at 91 Norton St. in Plantsville or call them at (860) 628-3761. For more info, visit www.southington.org.

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