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The Holiday Festival - A Light For The Future



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Newtown is unified in celebration this coming weekend. The tree lighting at Ram Pasture on Friday night, the Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast (or breakfast with that iconic Christmas persona, Santa Claus), the Garden Club Greens Sale, and the Sandy Hook Center tree lighting on Saturday, are preludes to the Holiday Festival, held each year on the first Sunday in December. The magic of the Holiday Festival is evident in the annual popularity of the tours of professionally decorated historic homes, the Festival of Trees, the Victorian tea, historic trolley tours, the Nutcracker Ballet Suite, and this year, a Main Street ride on the Polar Express. It is a day that brings joy to the heart.

What the Holiday Festival also brings is a much needed cash flow to support Newtown Youth & Family Services (NYFS).

A source of counseling for more than 30 years, NYFS is a valuable source of information and comfort, caring for townspeople through family, individual, and couples counseling; specialized programs; preventative initiatives; after school and weekend programs; and support groups. Over the past three years, NYFS has provided services to residents reeling from the trauma of 12/14. Scheduled appointments have increased by 168 percent since the end of 2012, and the professional staff has increased by 21, in order to provide services.

A larger staff and growing clientele has created a need for additional space. From one suite at its 15 Berkshire Road address, NYFS has expanded into two other nonintegrated suites. If a grant application to the state to fund a new facility is approved, a larger facility would increase programming space to accommodate the Social Recreational Group (autism programming), as well as other enrichment programs, and bring all of the staff together under one roof. All costs of an expanded service, however, will eventually be borne by the center.

Funds raised through the Holiday Festival are essential, said NYFS Director Candice Bohr. Funding from the town has not increased, and when a Department of Justice public assistance grant runs out, allowing for the current expansion of personnel, funding NYFS will fall squarely upon the shoulders of this local counseling organization.

Counseling centers that have sprung up in town since 12/14 are dependent on grants being refunded in order to continue providing services. There is no guarantee in years to come that these supplemental services will be available. What is likely is that Newtown residents with needs that can only be met through professional counseling will still find that assistance at NYFS.

Like the candles that rim Ram Pasture on Friday night, NYFS is a beacon of light for those who are losing hope. Without financial support from the community, that light could dim.

The Holiday Festival benefits this worthy organization. Buy a ticket at the NYFS office or Newtown Savings Bank offices, or at Edmond Town Hall the day of the event. For $25 per family of four, $12 per person, or $5 per child, you can ring in the holidays and spread joy far beyond this one day of the year.

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