NEWINGTON - With a little over two weeks until Christmas, the town is still hoping to match about 150 struggling residents with gifts.
The Department of Human Services’ annual holiday distribution will reach around 400 households, or 1,000 individuals, this year. But that’s only if a few more interested donors step up to fulfill the requests of remaining families by Dec. 15, when distribution is set to begin.
“We’re moving fast and furious,” Human Services Director Carol LaBrecque said last week.
Staff interviewed members of each household to collect gift requests in the $30 range.
The Newington Police Department hosted a Stuff-a-Cruiser at Walmart this past weekend, collecting toys from shoppers and others.
Businesses and local civic organizations deliver gifts and monetary donations to the department. Some residents also make annual contributions a family tradition.
“I am so grateful to every aspect of the community that gets involved,” LaBrecque said. “The whole community really responds.”
Much of this generosity benefits children, not adults.
“We typically get a lot of gifts for younger children,” LaBrecque explained. “We still need gifts for teens and adults.”
Those gifts can be small appliances or gadgets, or even a gift card.
Individuals and couples - many elderly or disabled - come to Town Hall on Dec. 15 to pick up gifts. Families with children come on Dec. 19 to get theirs and explore a room of “stocking stuffers” that staff and volunteers have set up for them.
Human Services recently gave out 375 Thanksgiving meals to families who use the Newington Food Bank. Now the shelves in the pantry are bare, LaBrecque said.
“In particular, we need items that people can’t purchase with SNAP benefits, like paper products, household cleaners and hygiene items.”
Volunteers have been busy the past few weeks, organizing donations and preparing gift packages inside Town Hall.
Touria Lemfarrege joined Maryjane Fitzpatrick and Cathy Fletcher one recent day, wrapping small stocking stuffers.
“The three of us have never met before and here we are, having a nice time,” Fitzpatrick pointed out as they worked.
“It’s nice to be around people with the holiday spirit,” Lemfarrege added. “I love this season.”
Donations can be dropped off at Town Hall, 131 Cedar St. from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call 860-665-8590.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.