By KAITLYN NAPLES
It is hard to believe, but Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and Christmas is just a little over one month away. So it is that time to think about helping others less fortunate have the best holiday season they can.
Every year, the United Way of West Central Connecticut provides several ways for area residents to donate just in time for the holidays; they call it their Joy of Sharing program, which has been providing food, toys and gifts for needy children and families in Bristol, Plymouth, Burlington and Plainville for 15 years.
Colleen Bolingbroke, the United Way of West Central Connecticut’s director of Marketing and Community Relations, said last year the United Way collected over 3,000 toys and gifts, along with countless food baskets.
The first drive will be the Thanksgiving Food Drive. On Nov. 19 or 20, anyone wishing to donate food products for those in need on Thanksgiving can drop items off at the United Way’s office, 200 Main St., Bristol, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
There will be another food drive for Christmas on Dec. 17 and 18 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Last year, the United Way collected food items to local organizations like: Christian Fellowship Storehouse, Greater Grace Apostolic Church, Plainville Seventh Day Adventist Church, Plymouth Community Food Pantry, St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Bristol, Salvation Army, Turning Point Christian Center and Zion Lutheran’s Meals for the Needy.
Area residents can also participate in the Joy of Sharing program by volunteering to work in two-hour shifts at the annual Salvation Army Kettle Drive in front of Stop and Shop on Pine Street in Forestville on Saturday, Dec. 7 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In addition to the food drives and kettle drive, the United Way of West Central Connecticut collects toys and gifts for children between the ages of 3- and 14-years-old, for its annual Holiday Toy and Gift Drive. Items can be dropped off at the United Way office on either Dec. 17 or 18, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Last year, gifts and toys that were donated were brought to the Bristol Community Organization, Bristol Boys and Girls Club, Bristol Head Start, Catholic Charities, Christian Fellowship Center, Community Mental Health Affiliates, Family Resource Centers at the three Bristol programs, Plainville Daycare Center, Plainville Seventh Day Adventist Church, St. Philip House, Wheeler Clinic, and more.
One of the programs within the United Way of West Central Connecticut also hosts its own gift drive, which is actually meant for children to pick out gifts for parents or guardians. The Young Professionals for United Way and Webster Bank teamed up three years ago to run an annual Re-Gifting program, which had originally been run by Bristol Youth Services however they could no longer provide the staff to operate the program.
For the month of November, the Young Professionals and Webster Bank collect unused, new gifts that you may have received in the past and had no use for. Items like grooming kits, gloves, scarves, mugs, flash lights, sports paraphernalia, games, perfume/cologne, household decorative items, jewelry, etc., are collected so children in local organizations can choose items to give to their parents or guardians for the holidays.
“It helps teach children in low-income areas of Bristol to learn the joy of giving,” Bolingbroke said.
Some of the sites that request gifts for children to choose from are the Bristol Boys and Girls Club and Family Center, Bristol Housing Authority, and several public schools in Bristol. The children who are eligible, Bolingbroke said, are chosen by the sites and the gifts are brought to these sites “so children can choose them in a comfortable atmosphere.”
This drive will be running until Saturday, Nov. 30. Items can be brought to the Bristol Public Library, Manross Library, Bristol Adult Resource Center, the United Way of West Central Connecticut office and any Bristol Webster Bank location. This drive is especially in need of men’s gifts, as well as holiday gift bags and tissue paper, and does not take clothing.
Anyone interested in more information about these drives should contact the United Way of West Central Connecticut at (860) 582-9559.
What the United Way needs
The United Way has made a list of items needed, however items are not limited to just those listed. Non-perishable items are welcome.
Potatoes/Pasta and Rice:
Canned sweet potatoes/yams
Canned pasta meals (any kind)
Macaroni and cheese
Potatoes (instant or canned)
Spaghetti sauce/tomato paste
Any kind of beans/baked beans
Beef stew, spam, Vienna sausages
Condensed soups and Chicken broth
Peanut butter and jelly
Cereals/Desserts/Baking and Cooking Items:
Bisquick, Maple syrup, honey
Candy/packaged cookies and crackers
Cookie, cake and brownie mixes/frosting
Corn bread and other bread mixes
Hot and cold cereals
Olive oil, cooking oil, shortening
Pre-made pie crusts and Pie filling
Spices: Adobo, salt/pepper, parsley, etc.
Sugar, Brown sugar and flour
Apple cider and cider mix
Canned juice, juice mixes, juice boxes
Coffee/tea (instant and regular)
Powdered creamer/powdered milk
Shelf-Stable boxed milk
Condiments and Other:
French fried onions
Salad dressing (all varieties)
Sweet relish, black and green olives