Filling the need

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Volunteers step up to help local families

From left, Jackie Froliger, Marco Mendes and Stacy McKenney fill a carriage for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank Sunday. Froliger and McKenney work for Student Transportation of America, Naugatuck's school bus company, which held fill a bus events at Stop & Shop and Wal-Mart in Naugatuck on Sunday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
From left, Jackie Froliger, Marco Mendes and Stacy McKenney fill a carriage for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank Sunday. Froliger and McKenney work for Student Transportation of America, Naugatuck’s school bus company, which held fill a bus events at Stop & Shop and Wal-Mart in Naugatuck on Sunday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — Dozens of volunteers from a variety of community groups on Sunday began a two-day process of filling cardboard boxes with meals that will serve hundreds of local families on Thanksgiving Day.

At 9:30 a.m., volunteers meticulously folded cardboard into boxes, taped the bottoms and then cut holes for handles on either side. When all 285 boxes had handles, they laid them out in 11 rows on the parish hall floor and formed a makeshift assembly line around the perimeter.

One by one they filled each box with stuffing, coffee, apple juice, tea, canned vegetables and other nonperishable food items. On Monday, they started filling potatoes, onions and other vegetables before finally putting the bird in the box.

All of the food will be donated to local families through the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank. The food bank has a list of 325 families in need of Thanksgiving Day meals but can only guarantee full meals for 285 families, said Marty Lee Fenton, food bank director.

“This is just a drop in the bucket,” she said.

Fenton and other food bank volunteers hope to be able to provide for everyone in need. She said there will probably be more than 400 families seeking Thanksgiving meals, and the food bank will do its best to serve everyone.

Connor Walker, 7, of Naugatuck, helps fill boxes with Thanksgiving Day meals for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank at St. Michael's Episcopal Church on the Town Green Sunday afternoon. A total of 285 boxes were filled Sunday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Connor Walker, 7, of Naugatuck, helps fill boxes with Thanksgiving Day meals for the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on the Town Green Sunday afternoon. A total of 285 boxes were filled Sunday. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Donations poured in from the community on Sunday. Bus drivers from Student Transportation of America, the company that runs Naugatuck bus services, held fill a bus events at Stop & Shop and Wal-Mart on Sunday. They dropped off dozens of turkeys and thousands of boxes of sides to the food bank’s headquarters on Spring Street late Sunday afternoon.

Fenton said there are so many volunteers this time of year that it is nearly impossible to name all of them. Students and staff from Western Elementary School’s community outreach group were at St. Michael’s early to set up boxes. Throughout the day, they were joined by groups from Cross Street Intermediate School, Ion Bank, local scouts, the Knights of Columbus, the United Way of Naugatuck and Beacon Falls, St. Francis-St. Hedwig School, Naugatuck High School and several others, Fenton said.

Plus there are thousands of people in the community who give to the food bank during this time of year, she said.

The food bank helps Naugatuck and Beacon Falls residents all year long.

To date, it has served 11,857 people this year. The food bank has given out 106,713 meals and distributed 14,790 full bags of food since Jan. 1. A total of 2,749 families are being served by the food bank in this community of just under 32,000 people. There are 200 new families added to this year’s list over last year.

“The need in the community is great, and we do all we can to help,” Fenton said.