Southington is a community that has always taken care of their own and made sure services and resources are available to those in need, Community Services Director Janet Mellon said, but even she wasn’t prepared for the outpouring of generosity that came this week.
In just one hour outside the Walmart store on Queen Street, members of the community stepped up to help provide one of the largest donations that Southington Community Services has received, providing $24,740 to help those in need, Mellon said.
“I’m honestly still in shock,” said Mellon. “We asked the community to step up and help and they did, in a very big way. It’s like a Christmas miracle.”
The collection was part of a special drive held this past Monday outside the Walmart location, the second consecutive year that Community Services has hosted the one-hour collection. The public donated $12,370, including several large donations from residents who wished to keep their name private, and Walmart matched the donations dollar for dollar said Mark Fazzolari, community services assistant.
And every dollar will help.
The struggling economy and a consistently high unemployment and underemployment rate has proved to be taxing on citizens, leading to more requests for assistance in 2012 than Southington Community Services has ever seen. Despite these growing needs, the department has been able to and is once again in position to service all needs without asking for any help from the town’s general operating budget.
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The list of items that Community Services provides has grown in recent years as well. Not only does the department serve as the town’s primary Foodshare and pantry, done in partnership with Bread for Life, but they also provide heating and energy assistance services and assist with emergency response during storms.
“The Foodshare alone, we are probably spending $70,000 on food per year – and that’s not counting others who might walk-in with short-term needs,” Mellon said. “The department has been able to raise enough money each year to take care of those needs without asking for a dollar (from the town’s operating budget). I’ve been here 12 years and all I can say, it’s like a miracle.”
In addition, the department provides immediate services to those affected by personal emergencies such as clothing and shelter following a house fire.
Mellon said although Community Services hosted the annual collection drive, it is the community that should be credited with making it a success – starting with local resident E. Richard Fortunato, who worked pro bono as the promotional director for the event.
In the days leading up to the event, Fortunato used his blog and other outlets including Southington Patch as a means of making the public aware of the event.
“We called and emailed the many organizations in our community who really care about those who are going through tough times,” Fortunato said. “They broadcast the information to their members and associates with a phenomenal response virtually overnight. While this is not so uncommon in Southington, the results were astounding and many hearts were happy! Someone was listening to our prayer up there.”
State Sen. Joseph Markley, who for a second year volunteered during the drive with State Rep. Rob Sampson, said he is proud of the generosity shown by the community.
To see Markley’s complete comments, be sure to read his blog on Southington Patch.
Mellon said the latest outpouring of support, which led to perhaps the largest donation Walmart will make nation-wide as part of it’s dollar for dollar drive partnerships, is amazing but is also something that has been and hopefully will continue to be the norm in Southington.
“There really isn’t a community in the state that can say they’ve stepped up in the ways Southington has,” Mellon said. “That’s the spirit of our community, whenever anything happens they have shown consistently that they will take care of their own.”
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