Shutdowns and social distancing due to the pandemic have had a big impact on almost everyone and arts groups are no exception. But there are ways to work around the obstacles COVID-19 presents.
Take the Plainville Wind Ensemble, for example. The 80-member symphonic concert band hasn't rehearsed or performed since March. Rehearsals were cancelled because those were held at Plainville High School and, for now, outside groups can’t use school buildings. Also cancelled was the ensemble's annual Veterans Day Concert at Welte Hall on the campus of Central Connecticut State University. The band's concerts are free to the public and serve to benefit a nonprofit group. Since 2005, the Veterans Day Concert has been a collection event for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program, with donations of between 600 to 800 unwrapped toys generated each year.
"After we had to cancel the concert, I was sitting around feeling sorry for myself and then thought 'what about Toys for Tots?'" said Kathleen Marsan, flutist, treasurer, and event coordinator for the Plainville Wind Ensemble.
Marsan got on the phone to Maj. Derek Shivers at the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center in Plainville. He runs the Toys for Tots program in the area and has coordinated donations for past Veterans Day concerts
The result was a re-worked collection event to be held Sunday, Nov. 15, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Plainville High School, 47 Robert Holcomb Way. Volunteers will accept donations of unwrapped toys so they can "Stuff the Truck" with Christmas gifts for local children.
The Plainville Wind Ensemble’s music will be played over a public address system during the event. The band, now in its 33rd year, has members ages 18 to 82 from all over Connecticut.
"They were very receptive to the idea," Marsan said referring to Shivers as well as Commandant James Morris of the Hardware City Marine Detachment based in New Britain who also is a coordinator for the event.
Last Christmas, the Reserve Center's Toys for Tots program distributed 41,499 toys to more than 31,000 children.
For those concerned about safety, Marsan said the Marines have a strict protocol in place for toy distribution.
“The toys will be quarantined before they go out,” she said. “Also, if people don't feel safe donating toys, they can make a monetary donation instead.”
Sunday’s event at Plainville High School will follow COVID-19 precautions as well.
"When people come to donate, they can just reach out of their cars with toys in hand and volunteers will take them and put them in a truck," Marsan said.
She said donors are asked to wear masks and volunteers will wear masks and gloves.
For more information, go to plainvillewindensemble.com or plainville-ct.toysfortots.org.