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We’d like to offer acknowledgement toward the members of Newtown United Methodist Church for their recent efforts toward Operation Christmas Child. Members recently filled 32 boxes with donations of small toys, hygiene items, and school supplies for the international relief organization. Now that’s a lovely way to kick off the season of giving.

That effort was complemented by similar efforts by the Sandy Hook church’s membership, who made this year’s Thanksgiving Basket Drive a huge success. That project raised enough funds to help six families and also have enough donations to send offerings to Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Newtown Social Services/Department of Human Services, Interfaith AIDS Mission, and New American Dream.

Congratulations to Scarlett Lewis for being named as winner of The Gold Stevie Award in the category of Female Innovator of the Year. Scarlett is founder of the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement and mother of Jesse, who was killed on 12/14. A recent post to the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement Facebook page announced that news as well as the fact that the Choose Love Movement received the Silver Stevie Award for Organization of the Year — Government or Non-Profit — 10 or Less Employees. According to the post, the Stevie Awards for Women in Business honor women executives, entrepreneurs, employees, and the companies they run worldwide. More information about the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movement is available at chooselovemovement.org.

After last week’s paper went to press we heard again from our contact at Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP), who has been keeping in touch about the October 31 oil spill on New Lebbon Road. Media Relations Manager Paul Copleman had told us last week (“Soil Testing Continues Following October Oil Truck Rollover” by Shannon Hicks) that monitoring wells were still in place at the spill site, checking for contamination. DEEP staff is checking the wells regularly, Paul also mentioned. In a follow-up email he added that because each test well situation is a little different given topography and specific details of the spill, “we won’t remove the wells until our team has repeatedly checked them without finding any more spilled oil. It’s hard to put a timeline on, but out of an abundance of caution, we’re not in a hurry to remove them.”

A Colchester photographer who reportedly spent weeks in Newtown after 12/14 is sharing some of those images this month in Connecticut’s capitol city. “Remembering the Newtown School Shooting Ten Years Ago, Robert Carley’s Photos of Hope: Makeshift Memorials and Tributes” is on view until December 30 at the Connecticut State Capitol Building, 300 Capitol Avenue in Hartford. The public can visit weekdays between 8 am and 5 pm. A reception is planned for Wednesday, December 14, at noon. In a note to The Newtown Bee last week, Carley said the exhibit is “dedicated to the memory of Vicky Soto who sacrificed her life shielding her students from the shooter.”

Like an early holiday miracle, many of the families — which in this case also includes individuals and couples — who seek help through The Newtown Fund (TNF) Holiday Basket program will be helped out this season. TNF President Linda Bates was so grateful, she said this week, to hear from so many residents last weekend. More than two dozen families in need were adopted. There are still many people waiting to be adopted, however, and Linda and other TNF board members would like to make sure everyone in town has a great Christmas. Adoptions are still available, which cover the commitment of purchasing home goods, cleaning supplies, gifts and more for a household in town, with delivery planned for Saturday, December 17. If that’s too much to take on — and for many people, it is — readers can still make general financial donations. “Any donations we collect, we will buy additional gift cards for food, gas, and gifts,” Linda promised this week. To make a donation visit TheNewtownFund.org or send an email to NewtownFund@gmail.com.

Newtown Police Department announced on its Facebook page November 30 that the department recognizes that some residents may require a unique response from first responders, “and we are always in the process of evaluating the resources available to us to better serve our community.” The post thanked the Naugatuck non-profit organization Walk with Derek for providing an Autism Safety Alert form, which is now available on the department’s website, newtown-ct.gov/newtown-police-department. The form can be submitted to the Newtown Emergency Communications Center “so that any special instructions for responding to calls involving our autistic neighbors can be entered into our system,” the post reads. “Thanks to the initiative taken by some caring local residents, this form is part of a larger campaign to educate, train, and equip our first responders and community that we will be announcing in the coming months.”

Speaking of our local PD, belated and continued congratulations to Officer Lenny Penna, who reached his 20th anniversary with the department on December 6. Ofc Penna has been a School Resource Officer, Field Training Officer, and a member of the NPD Motor Unit. He is currently assigned to the patrol division and will be joining the NPD Traffic Unit in January.

It’s a busy time of year, there is no doubt. Seems everyone is juggling more than ever. Just in time, Newtown Community Center recently began hosting a Community Juggling Club! Hat City Jugglers/Circus Moves is at 8 Simpson Street on the third Thursday of each month, which means the next gathering is on December 15. Open-gym style gatherings are done from 6 to 9 pm, and this is a great opportunity for anyone who has done any circus arts. BYO props, or borrow some of the club’s pieces. Please note this is a club style monthly event, not a class. It’s for those who want to dust off or sharpen their skills with other like-minded jugglers. It’s a kid-friendly space, but not a kid space and anyone under age 16 must have an adult present for at least a few visits, according to the group’s Facebook page. No reservations are needed. Just drop in ... but don’t drop those pins (or whatever you like to juggle). For additional information find Hat City Jugglers on Facebook.

The Genealogy Club of Newtown often has a fun gathering as its holiday meeting, and this year is no different. Readers are invited to join members on Wednesday, December 14, at 7 pm, when members share “My Best Genealogy Gift.” The club is still meeting virtually, but organizers are nevertheless planning to include the annual raffles next week as well. How will that work? Register, sign in, and find out! Send an e-mail to genclubnewtownct.secretary@gmail.com, and be sure to include your name and address. Each guest will receive a Zoom link, and all are asked to sign in around 6:45 so that everyone is ready to party at the top of the hour.

Don’t be cruel, make a reservation this week to join residents and other guests for 90 minutes of “Elvis, Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree” at Church Hill Village. The assisted living and memory care residence is inviting everyone to rock over to 2 The Boulevard on Thursday, December 15, 5:30 to 7 pm, for a celebration with music, appetizers, and the King of Rock & Roll. It could be the opposite of a blue Christmas for anyone who joins the fun. Call 203-745-0968 for a reservation and additional information.

Newtown Senior Center is sponsoring a Health & Wellness Clinic for pets of seniors and veterans on Friday, December 16, from 10 am to 1 pm, at the center, 8 Simpson Street. Services include wellness checks, rabies vaccines, distemper vaccines, basic deworming, and heartworm testing (for dogs). Register to reserve your spot by visiting vetcareeverywhere.org/community-events or call 203-270-4310. Cost is $60 per pet (cash or check only).

I’m patting the senior center on the back for scheduling the health and wellness clinic for pets of seniors and veterans just as much as I will pat myself on the back if you promise next week to ... Read me again.

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