By SHERIDAN CYR
Several local organizations and individuals have organized toy drives and food drives in the town of Southington this holiday season, with the hopes of making a difference and giving a family or an individual a fulfilling holiday.
“I truly believe that out of the 169 municipalities in Connecticut, Southington is the most generous and caring town,” said director of Southington Community Services Janet Mellon. “When there is a need, this community is always here, and that is thanks to our local businesses, individuals, and civic groups.”
Mellon said she often hears from people who have moved out of town that other towns do not compare to Southington when it comes to community service.
“There is no other community like this,” said Mellon. “Whenever we start to run low on something, it seems to appear within days. Every time we say, ‘if only,’ it seems to come in. It’s unbelievable.”
‘Tis the season for donations. A number of toy or food drives have been organized for SCS, and the same goes for Southington’s soup kitchen, Bread for Life. The holidays are one of the busier times for donation drives, but local fundraisers continue throughout the year.
“We have had a tremendous support of food drives and donations from the community” said executive director of BFL, Donna Ayer. “It is totally amazing how generous this community is.”
At BFL, a number of programs have been initiated this holiday season. They have partnered with Amazon Smile this year. When online shopping on Amazon, click on the Amazon banner on the left and select Bread for Life as the organization of your choice. Then, shop online normally. Amazon Smile offers the same products and prices as Amazon—it just offers a charitable return.
BFL always accepts gift cards of $5 or $10 for gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores, Walmart, Dunkin Donuts and the Dollar Store. The local soup kitchen also encourages individuals to give the gift of hope by making a donation in someone else’s name who has made a difference to them.
One young girl, Valerie Sprague, has been giving up her Christmas gifts for six years. Instead, she collects gift donations to be provided for youth at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Engine Company No. 5 in Southington hosts the toy drive at the firehouse.
Sprague makes those children’s’ days a little more enjoyable by donating. She is looking for new and unwrapped toys such as stuffed animals, LEGOs, puzzles, coloring supplies, dolls, action figures, books, movies, Play-Doh, stickers and board games. This year’s drive will be held on Dec. 9 at 72 River St.
The Kleinhen family continues into year six of their own toy drive to benefit SCS, but this year the family is one member short. Sharon Kleinhen lost her husband in a fatal accident this past summer.
“My four kids came to me and said, ‘Mom, we’re still going to do the toy drive,’” said Sharon. “We always encouraged them to think of others in need. They’re a big part of this toy drive.”
With the theme, “give joy with a toy,” Sharon and her children—Vanessa, 21; Marcus, 18; Nicole, 12; and Julianna, 9—hope to exceed last year’s total of about 200 gifts. New and unwrapped gifts can be dropped off at their home, which is monitored with a camera 24/7. The Kleinhens live at 151 Butternut lane in Southington.
To find out how to get involved or to donate, call SCS at (860) 628-3761 or BFL at (860) 276-8389.