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Close to 400 Thanksgiving baskets distributed at annual Groton event

November 17, 2018

Groton — Undeterred by gusts of wind and a snowstorm the night before, volunteers showed up Friday outside Groton Human Services to give close to 400 Thanksgiving baskets to people in need.

The helpers carried boxes, packed with food, up from the basement and assembled them on tables outdoors. As people pulled up in their cars, the helpers hurriedly worked to place the boxes and turkeys in the vehicles.

Wendy Reppert, who is disabled and on a fixed income, stopped by Friday to pick up food to make a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie, among other dishes, to enjoy with her neighbor. She said she appreciates the program and wouldn’t be able to afford all the food, especially when money is tight before Christmas.

“It’s a real blessing,” she said.

Volunteers were expected to distribute close to 400 Thanksgiving baskets by the end of the day, according to Groton Human Services Director Marge Fondulas. She said Human Services can distribute a maximum of 500 baskets at the annual event but the actual number waxes or wanes each year.

Fondulas said the effort fills a need in the community to provide food for people who are on a fixed or low income and also brings together a wonderful volunteer contingent from the community.

Groton City and Groton Town police officers and student volunteers from Fitch High School and University of Connecticut-Avery Point were among those assisting. A contingent from local churches had helped fill the boxes, Fondulas said.

Amanda Babineau said she has a large family, with her husband, herself, a 4-year-old girl, 6-year-old boy and 1-year-old twin boys. She recently had to quit her job because one of her toddlers has a condition that makes him unable to attend day care.

“I don’t have to go out and buy a turkey, and it gives me food to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner,” she said of the basket.

Sabrina Brathwaite is taking care of her grandchildren, who are teenagers, after her daughter passed away a few years ago. She said the Thanksgiving basket helps with making sure her grandchildren have a nice Thanksgiving. She plans to make a meal with their favorite dishes: ham, candied yam pie and baked macaroni and cheese.

Thanksgiving for her is about “giving thanks that I still got a part of my daughter and I’m doing what she would do for them,” she said.

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said it’s a great event that Groton Human Services does.

Nikiah Perry, 16, a junior at Fitch High School who is a member of the Falcon Business Society, a business club at the school, said being able to make a difference is a good feeling. “It just makes me feel good to give back and help others,” she said.

Cheyenne Holliday said volunteering at the annual event has become a family tradition. Her mother, who works at UConn-Avery Point, organizes a group of student athletes to come volunteer at the event.

“It’s definitely humbling,” said Holliday, a University of Connecticut student who plans to pursue international human rights law. “As a kid I always loved volunteering, and I made time for it every month. As a college student, it’s been something I’ve struggled to fit into my schedule, so to have this kind of opportunity, especially during the holidays and especially with my family, is something I cherish.”

Her partner, Wali Hairan, a Connecticut College student who was born in Afghanistan and spent seven years in a refugee camp in Pakistan, said volunteering and helping people in need, especially with food and primary care, is close to his heart.

“I just feel super happy,” he said with a smile as he stood outside.

Casey Flax, 17, a senior at Fitch High School and member of the Falcon Business Society, said she loves that everyone is so appreciative when the volunteers put the Thanksgiving baskets in their cars.

“We’re a community, and we’re all helping each other,” she said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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