Help Still Needed For 2021 Newtown Fund Holiday Basket Program
The Holiday Basket program is a community-wide effort organized by The Newtown Fund (TNF) each year. Countless Newtown residents, businesses, and organizations generously donate time and resources to support Newtown families in need during the holiday season. The program culminates on Depot Day, when all items and gifts are organized and delivered to those who have requested them. Organizers are still hoping residents will step up in time to help those in need this month.
According to TNF Vice President Anne Ragusa, among those who are instrumental in the success of the program are Natalie Jackson, director of human services for the Town of Newtown; and TNF Holiday Basket Coordinator Alison Kistner.
Jackson and her team reach out to residents in need and obtain information about what the specific needs are for those families.
With the needs and wishes of 80 or more families to fulfill, Jackson takes on the Herculean task of organizing all of that information and then providing it to Kistner.
Kistner then takes that information and pairs individuals and families with “adopters” from the community who have committed to providing food and gifts to the families.
Adopters are individuals, families, businesses, and community organizations that are willing to donate to an individual or family to make their holidays special. Some adopters have been consistently donating to TNF for dozens of years.
Kistner also keeps in touch with the adopters to answer questions and send reminders throughout the adopting process.
Help Still Needed
Any family that wishes to be adopted can contact Newtown Human Services at 203-270-4330. Applicants are screened by the Town of Newtown department to make sure they meet eligibility requirements. By late November, TNF knows how many individuals, couples, and families need to be “adopted” for that year’s Holiday Basket Program.
The names of those seeking adoption are known only to Human Services; each recipient is identified to TNF only by a number, with only their gender and general age also shared. The wish list of each person, couple, or family is also provided to the fund, which distributes it to those who want to do an adoption.
Bates told The Newtown Bee in January that TNF’s Holiday Basket Program adopted out 97 families for the 2020 holiday season. The program provided gifts and food, she said, for 295 people: 125 adults (ages 18-61), 44 senior citizens (age 62 and up), and 96 children (age 17 and under.
In 2019, 62 families were aided; in 2018 it was 68 families, representing 100 adults and 60 children. The previous year, the fund aided 71 families.
It seems 1992 may have been the standard bearer for the most challenging year for the program. That year, 124 families — representing 400 people, according to our archives — were served through the program, which began in 1964 as a distribution of Christmas food baskets. That first year, 40 families — 200 people — received boxes of gifts and food.
The date for distributing gifts and food to the adopted families — called Depot Day — this year is Saturday, December 11. There is still a need for individuals and organizations to adopt a family for this year.
For the second year, Depot Day will be done via direct delivery to the homes of adoptees. Until last year, all items were collected at a central location and then either delivered or picked up by families. COVID precautions led to the change of Depot Day collection and distribution until further notice.
For additional information about The Newtown Fund, which operates year-round, visit its website.