Helping hand for the holidays  

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Food banks, towns working to assist residents as Thanksgiving approaches

With Thanksgiving two weeks away, local volunteers and officials are working to ensure everyone has a meal for the holiday.

For the first time, Beacon Falls Congregational Church and the town of Beacon Falls are working together to provide free Thanksgiving dinners to residents.

“Part of our church’s mission is to reach out to people,” said Wendy Hopkinson, community outreach ministry leader at the church. “We hope by offering Thanksgiving meals during this difficult time that it will bring some joy in their lives.”

The dinners are available for any Beacon Falls resident. Officials are looking to limit the number of dinners to 75 people. Residents can call Kerry McAndrew in the First Selectman’s Office at 203-729-4340 to sign up for a meal. Officials ask that residents sign up by Nov. 20.

People can pick up meals, which will be made by a small group of volunteers, at the church on Wolfe Avenue in Beacon Falls on Thanksgiving. Dinners will also be delivered.

Donations of food and money are welcome. For information on how to donate, call Beacon Falls Congregational Church at 203-729-8802.

In Naugatuck, volunteers at the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank are putting together Thanksgiving food baskets — including potatoes, green beans, corn, frosting, cake mix, stuffing, canned fruit, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce, carrots, and onions — for families in need.

Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank President Marty-Lee Fenton said the group expects to give out up to 300 baskets this year, which is the food bank’s limit. Last year, the food bank planned to give out 250 baskets and handed out 286, she said.

“We are doing our best to help as many as we can,” Fenton said.

Fenton said the food bank received 100 turkeys from the Connecticut Food Bank this year, which is 36 less than last year. The Naugatuck food bank will buy 150 to 175 turkeys, she said

The Thanksgiving basket giveaway is run in conjunction with 11 local churches. Each church is responsible for one food item that goes into the baskets, Fenton said. The food bank buys anything else that’s needed, she said.

People signed up for baskets through the churches and the food bank. Pickup is scheduled for Nov. 23 between 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the Naugatuck Event Center in Naugatuck.

Along with putting together the baskets, volunteers at the food bank continue to provide food for people in need on Tuesdays and Fridays. Last month, Fenton said the food bank served about 265 families.

Fenton said the food bank reduced the number of volunteers due to COVID-19 and about a dozen have been faithfully helping out throughout the pandemic.

“I hope people appreciate what they’ve been doing,” Fenton said about the volunteers. “They’re putting their lives on the line. They should be appreciated by everybody.”

Donations for the food bank are always needed. Recently, the food bank received about $30,000 worth of items, including canned goods, paper goods and cleaning supplies, from former Beacon Falls Market owner Charlie Lee, who closed the market at the end of September.

The Naugatuck Knights of Columbus also recently donated $10,000 raised from a golf tournament to the food bank.

Fenton said the food bank could use a few specific items that are in short supply, including ketchup, pickles, cookies, apple sauce, snacks, toothpaste, soap and cat or dog food.

People can bring donations to the food bank. For information, call the food bank at 203-723-1922.

Prospect Senior Center Lucy Smegielski, who oversees the town’s food bank, said the demand for help has at least doubled since last year. She said workers deliver food to about 50 people bi-weekly. This is on top of the roughly 90 meals a week workers have been delivering to seniors weekly since the coronavirus outbreak in March.

“Whoever is in need, we deliver to them,” Smegielski said.

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said the food bank is in good shape until about Christmas, thanks in part to recent food drives run by the Prospect Knights of Columbus, the Prospect Republican Town Committee, and LaBonne’s Market.

The town accepts non-perishable food and monetary donations year-round for the food bank. People who want to donate or are in need of assistance can call Prospect Town Hall at 203-758-4461.