NEW BRITAIN - Spring Brook Ice & Fuel Service has been keeping area residents warm for 100 years.
So when president and owner Gregory Stafstrom learned that Warm The Children, a fundraising effort that uses every penny collected to buy city children warm winter clothing, was facing a $20,000 shortfall this year, he decided to take action.
“We wanted to help fill the void because of our 100-year connection to keeping people warm,” Stafstrom said.
About to kick off their 15th year, business owner and Town and City Clerk Mark Bernacki has spearheaded New Britain’s Warm The Children each year to collect $54,000 to give about 900 city children in need $60 worth of warm winter clothing. Warm The Children operates with no overhead and an army of volunteers who take families shopping around the holidays with vouchers supplied by the organization. The outfit relies solely on donations from individuals, businesses, clubs and other service organizations.
For the past several years, Bernacki was able to obtain a $20,000 grant from the city from federal Community Development Block Grant funds. This year, city officials decided to rotate the types of charities and service agencies that receive the money, so Warm The Children will not be receiving the grant. The $20,000 equates to more than 300 children who will not be getting warm clothing if the money can’t be replaced, Bernacki said. “It’s an obstacle we’re going to have to overcome,” Bernacki said.
Stafstrom heard of the shortfall at a New Britain Berlin Rotary Club meeting and started thinking of ways that he could help. The result was a flyer tucked within the invitations for a 100th anniversary celebration held Saturday. In the flyer, Spring Brook Ice & Fuel explained that Warm The Children had a hole in funding and how people could donate. “We benefit the community and benefit from the community,” Stafstrom said. “This is a way to give back.”
Within days of the invitation going out, donations began pouring in. As of Thursday, Warm The Children has received $5,287 directly from Stafstrom’s efforts. “It was phenomenal,” Bernacki said of Stafstrom’s ingenuity. “It’s really going to help us out.”
Anyone who wishes to donate can send checks payable to Warm The Children, and mail to Warm The Children, c/o The New Britain Herald, P.O. Box 1090, New Britain, CT, 06050.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.