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Newtown Fund Holiday Basket Volunteers Make Sure 'No One Goes Without'



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Newtown Fund Holiday Basket Volunteers Make Sure ‘No One Goes Without’

By Kendra Bobowick

Barbara Wolf, the treasurer for Newtown Boy Scout Troop 370, is always impressed when she sees the “men and boys really give of their time” helping load cars with gifts and food collected for families in the community.

The Newtown Fund’s Holiday Basket campaign has kicked off for 2009, raising contributions to culminate on Depot Day come Saturday, December 19. That day, troop volunteers will be among those in town who help to assemble and prepare donations for local families in need this year. She recalls past years when she opened the doors at Newtown United Methodist Church, where Depot Day was previously held.

“I was completely taken aback to see the number of people helping other people in a time of need,” she recalled this week.

As Depot Day approaches, troop members out of Sandy Hook and Scout Master Jeff Price look forward to the event.

“We’ve been doing Depot Day for as long as I can remember,” he said. The scouts arrive at Sandy Hook School, where the final preparations for the Newtown Fund’s ongoing gift basket campaign culminates. Volunteering their time – as does everyone involved in The Newtown Fund’s Holiday Basket Program — the Scouts unload vehicles making last-minute deliveries, and help load cars on their way to drop off donations and holiday goods to area families. Although part of their community service efforts, the participants enjoy the afternoon.

“They have a good time and everybody comes together,” Mr Price explained. Later that night over pizza, the boys enjoy a campout.

Depot Day and the bustle of activity to assemble and deliver gift packages is “amazing,” said Sandy Hook resident Cathy Sullivan. A former Newtown Fund board president and member for 13 years, Mrs Sullivan this week recalled, “We never leave anyone without something,” she said regarding the community’s families in need. Depot Day is a “warm day, a good day,” she said.

The Newtown Fund’s drive each year is a “huge effort” that sees volunteers helping neighbors in need who remain anonymous, said Mrs Sullivan. “So many people turn out to help on Depot Day,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t hear from them all year and they show up to help out.”

Rosemary Trudell, a neighbor of Mrs Sullivan’s, sent a letter to fellow Walnut Tree Village residents last year seeking help for the Holiday Gift Basket drive. She has repeated that effort already this year.

As she spoke about her efforts this week, she was interrupted by the doorbell. “Would you believe, someone is at the door right now?!” she said over the phone. She had only just sent the letter out. Her efforts began because of her grandchildren.

“I wanted them involved,” she said. She hopes her neighbors will wait for her grandchildren Julia, Haley and Trey Trudell, to come to her neighbors’ doors to collect food and gifts. From there they can sense the meaning of holidays, giving, and helping their neighbors. This year especially is an important time to give. “With our economy, so many people are hurting,” she sad.

Recalling holiday seasons past, Mrs Trudell remembered when her own children were growing up. Let them believe in Santa Claus, she had said, and have something to be excited about during that time in their life.

This year with help again from her neighbors, she and her grandchildren will be like Santa, spreading gifts and good intentions.

“People tell me they have such joy in buying toys,” she said.

Residents who spoke with The Bee are just a few among the many individuals, groups, and businesses that make efforts to support the community during the holidays.

How Can You Help?

The Newtown Fund, which benefits the town’s Social Services department, is a nonprofit volunteer organization that provides assistance to local residents. The Holiday Basket Program relies on contributions to support families in need during the holidays.

Those who would like to contribute, sponsor a family, inquire about gifts or food needed and/or volunteer time leading up to Friday and Saturday, December 18-19, when the gifts are collected, organized, wrapped and delivered, can contact Rick Mazzariello at 270-9190.

Financial contributions will be used to purchase gifts and food for people in need this year.

Depot Day this year — the day that all of the contributions are organized and then delivered — will be Saturday, December 19.

Final preparations actually begin the afternoon before. On Friday, December 18, residents who have last-minute unwrapped gifts to give can drop them off at Sandy Hook Elementary School at 6 pm. Volunteers will be busy that afternoon and evening, wrapping and organizing gifts and assembling boxes for recipients.

Last minute wrapped gifts labeled for the gender and age of the intended recipient can be dropped off on December 19 at the school after 7 am. Volunteers will be at the school between 7 am and 1 pm.

Sturdy boxes are needed to help pack up everything that will be delivered on Depot Day, and drivers are also needed.

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