More than 500 citizens volunteered Saturday, Dec. 1 for the 13th annual Community Roundup, ultimately collecting more than 13,000 food items and $3,500 for local social services.
“It's such an amazing display of our district's core ethical values and the work and collaboration,” said Strong Middle School principal Scott Sadinsky.
Approximately 80 teams of about four people per carload dispersed after getting their routes – and some breakfast – at Coginchaug Regional High School, headquarters for the event.
Some volunteers stayed behind to sort, organize and pack donations as they came in. Teams would arrive back at the school and load shopping carts with the non-perishables, which would be counted and then brought into the gym, where people would separate items by kind and destination.
Thanks to loyal contributors like resident Hans Peterson and Home Depot, trucks and shopping carts came at no cost.
Ethel Higgins, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul in Middletown, which runs Amazing Grace Food Pantry and is one of the organizations donated to, reminded volunteers to keep in mind where the food goes.
“Because of what you do, families have the opportunity to eat, to fellowship, and all the great things that happen at our kitchen tables during the holidays,” Higgins said. “I am so grateful for the years this has been going on and everything that you’ve been doing.”
Kathy Bottini, co-chairperson of the event and social worker with the school district, said the hope is that students understand the food they collect goes to helping people in their own community, sometimes their own neighbors.
Four years ago, three local families came together to start their own team for the community roundup.
For one of the families, Annjeannette Bugai and her kids Adriana, Henry and Joe, the event is special because three of their birthdays are in December.
“They get a lot in December, so I wanted them to give back too,” Bugai said.
This year the group of 11 donned elf hats and asked for a longer route, since the kids wanted to spend more time helping with the door-to-door collection.
The group’s nine kids could be seen sprinting in various groups or alone from house to house, sometimes down long driveways or through mud, and almost always bringing back food or cash donations.
With their moms’ supervising from the road, the elementary- to middle school-aged youngsters spent almost two hours on their route, replenishing their energy with water and the occasional lollipop.
The kids started calling their new tradition “trick or treating for a cause.”
“I like helping people because some people in Connecticut don’t have any food,” said Ruby Wiseman, a third grader in the group.
Ruby’s mom, Katie Wiseman, said the town is great at providing opportunities for youngsters to give back and embrace the district’s core ethical values.
This year 13,464 food items were collected, equaling close to 15,000 pounds. The cash and gift card total was $3,534.
Each year the Durham and Middlefield social services take what they need in food donations and the remaining goes to Amazing Grace Food Pantry.
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