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She’s back! First thing Monday morning, employees and visitors were all pleasantly surprised to see Bee Publishing Company Receptionist Sandy Tannone back at her desk in our front office. It’s been five weeks since we’d seen her, after Sandy took a bad fall to close out 2023. She and her “grand-dog” Kona were walking when Sandy fell, broke one ankle and injured one of her knees and one of her wrists — all while managing to keep her grip on Kona (who did not cause the fall, Sandy is quick to say). She’s still a bit sore and moving carefully, but she’s back and happy and so are we.

The Big Y Community Bag Program continues this month, with Newtown Community Center being highlighted. For each $2.50 reusable Community Bag purchased at the Queen Street supermarket in February, the community center will receive a $1 donation.

Last week I gave a shoutout to Newtown Lions Club. This week I offer a high five (high paw?) to The Rotary Club of Newtown, who expanded its membership by two people yet one household. Jen and Neil Chaudhary were officially sworn in to the local Rotary Club by Rotary District 7980 Governor Christene Freedman a few weeks ago. Congratulations Chaudharys and Rotary. That sounds like a win-win-win to me.

Punxsutawney Phil and Beardsley Bart, among others, did not see their shadow last Friday morning, so we are clearly assured that spring will arrive earlier than the calendar tells us it will this year. Clearly the critters were in agreement on Groundhog Day this year. You know what else screams Spring? Newtown Earth Day Festival, which will return on Saturday, April 27, according to a Save The Date note I received this week.

Newtown VNA Thrift Shop has a relatively new, secure place for donations. A few members of The Visiting Nurse Association of Newtown very proudly mentioned that following their meeting this week. A trunk has been placed outside the entrance to the shop, which is accessible from the rear parking lot of Edmond Town Hall. Its current hours are Saturdays from 10 am until 1 pm and you never know what you’ll find behind the red door. It’s like The Christmas Tree Shoppes, but still up and running.

Bev Bennett Schaedler, coordinator of The Friends of Newtown Seniors Chore Services, would like to thank everyone who donated winter clothing for the Dorothy Day Hospitality House last month. Twelve large bags were delivered thanks to everyone who responded to Bev’s call for help to keep neighbors warm. I’d say everyone involved — Bev and those donors — deserve a Good Egg Award!

The United Way of Connecticut says if you think Sunday’s only claim to fame is Super Bowl Sunday, then you’ll be missing an important celebration. February 11 (2/11) is also National 211 Day — an annual observance celebrating the go-to, 24/7/365 three-digit (211) free resource that connects millions of people in Connecticut to essential information about local resources and services. Last year in Connecticut, 211 responded to more than 1.7 million requests for help for immediate and long-term challenges. In the past five years, requests for basic needs, such as food (+98 percent), housing (+30 percent), shelter/homeless assistance (+13 percent) and mental health and addiction assistance (+60 percent) have all been on the rise. Since 2018, call volume is up more than 20 percent and 211ct.org website volume has increased 20 times. Due to inflation and the steep increases in prices, more Connecticut residents are turning to 211 for help than ever. 211’s curated database includes 40,000+ community programs and services, as well as screeners for 23 state and federal benefits.

Despite the increasing need, however, funding for this service — which has operated in service to Connecticut since 1976 — has been flat since 2010. That means that 211 Connecticut has lost frontline staff needed to answer urgent calls from state residents. Additional investment is needed so that 211 can help more residents, more quickly, because long wait times discourage callers and have a negative impact on 211’s ability to connect them with the essential assistance they need. The United Way doesn’t have an immediate answer to that challenge. On Sunday, at least, they ask readers to simply celebrate and acknowledge the service that has helped millions of Connecticut residents. (If you’re so inclined though, visit 211ct.org to learn more, including ways to help.)

This Sunday morning — yes, well ahead of the big game between the Chiefs and the 49ers — the folks at Newtown United Methodist Church will be learning from some local heroes. Readers are invited to join NUMC members to learn how to use an automated external defibrillator from members of Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The workshop will be in Rauner Hall, which has entry from the lower parking lot of the church, 92 Church Hill Road. All are welcome to join the congregation for worship service, of course. Those begin each Sunday morning at 9:30. There is no charge for the workshop (just a little charge when those pads on the AED machine are activated ... ha ha!).

Shrove Tuesday is next week, and I have mixed emotions ahead of that day. I love and appreciate the season of Lent, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that one of the big traditions of Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, is the baking and serving of King Cakes, and one of my favorite memories of the late Marilyn Alexander is tied into those pretty purple, yellow and green frosted sweet breads. It was November 2013, and Marilyn — with friends and fellow NCC members Peg Forbell and Emi Lydem — baked up ten of the Mardi Gras confections, complete with little plastic babies (put on top of each cake instead of baked within, a slight deviation from the tradition of baking the plastic cherub into each cake), for the church’s fundraiser. Despite the fact that king cakes are traditionally consumed during Mardi Gras, Marilyn loved the New Orleans/southern cuisine being served that night so much that she added further flair to the event.

After everyone had enjoyed their dinner, Marilyn surprised the crowd by wheeling a cart out from the kitchen topped with those beautiful cakes. She had her familiar big smile and was so pleased to be doing something for others. Marilyn had organized the cakes, she later said, despite the fact that it was her birthday. She said she was happy to be sharing her birthday with her extended church family. Once the diners were reminded by NCC Pastor Matt Crebbin of the significance of the day, Marilyn was serenaded by the crowd of approximately 175 happy revelers… in between bites of cake, that is. As I said, that vision of Marilyn pushing that cart of king cakes into the church’s Great Room is one of my favorite memories of her.

With the return of Lent comes another returning tradition: Knights of Columbus Friday Knight Fish Fry dinners. The Knights will have dinners available almost every week. Online ordering and curbside pickup only will be offered the first four weeks, February 16-March 8. March 15 and March 29 will have online order/curbside pickup and in person dining available. The Knights will not be serving dinners on March 22 due to Confirmations. There will again be entrees of fried fish, baked fish, eggplant rollatini, and fish tacos, with sides of French fries and cole slaw. Clam chowder will also be available while supplies last, and weekly specials are planned. Check our print and online calendars for details, or head right to kofc185.org/fish-fry to place orders each week.

I hope you make happy memories during the next week. We have so much to be grateful for. I’ll be grateful, of course, if you’ll come back and … read me again.

Bev Bennett Schaedler and everyone who responded to her request for warm clothes for The Dorothy Day Hospitality House are the recipients of this week's Good Egg Award.
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