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United Way program aims to double donations for Meriden and Wallingford families this Christmas

MERIDEN — An annual program coordinated by several local nonprofit organizations is looking to help even more families this year because of the pandemic.

“The idea is really to try to help these families that are struggling to have a good Christmas,” said Maria Campos-Harlow, executive director of United Way of Meriden and Wallingford. “It should be a very happy time of the year for a lot. But for many it’s really very stressful.”

The Adopt -A-Family program works annually with more than a dozen agencies in Meriden and Wallingford to identify families that need help.

The agencies working with United Way of Meriden and Wallingford include Meriden’s YMCA, Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc. and the Spanish Community of Wallingford.

Each family eligible for donations makes a wish-list based on need and want. After submitting the list, the United Way will match them with a donor, although the family remains  anonymous. Families can then expect a gifted-wrapped box of items at an agency. 

Doubling the number of donations from last year, Harlow said, is crucial because of the impact of the pandemic. In 2019, 85 families, or 285 individuals, received donations. This year, she said, United Way wants to help 200 families. 

“It’s a big goal, but we hope that we can meet it because the need is enormous,” said Campos-Harlow.

Those eligible for donations, she added, fall into two groups — families near or below the poverty line and those living paycheck to paycheck and lacking in funds to deal with an emergency. 

The second is categorized as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). Slightly over one-third of Meriden’s and Wallingford’s population is considered ALICE, according to a recent report

Families mainly request basic items like clothes or household goods.

“It’s absolutely amazing. If we did not have this support, if we did not have the generosity of our community, our outlook would look completely different,” said Campos-Harlow.

Volunteers wishing to donate can do so in a few ways, said United Way Marketing and Community Outreach Specialist Julia Pelletier. They can go to the United Way’s website and fill out a form to adopt a family.

Another option is the Meriden Mall Giving Tree. adorned with gift-wish tags for shoppers to fulfill. If donors for whatever reason are unable to shop, Harlow said, they can donate by giving money or gift cards to an agency who can fulfill the shopping.

Pelletier said the deadline for participants to sign up is Nov. 25. The gifts, she added, would then be expected to be picked up from donors on Dec. 11.


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