WALLINGFORD – What started as a monthly get-together for a group of local women has turned into an annual holiday food donation for those in need.
A group of neighborhood friends, led by Maggie Colantonio and Sue Lentine, gathered at Colantonio’s Grassy Hill Court home this week to put together baskets of non-perishable food that will be delivered before Thanksgiving.
Tuesday night marked the 17th year the group filled laundry-sized baskets of food, including a gift card for a Thanksgiving turkey. In the past, baskets have been dropped at Master’s Manna, a local food pantry, the Wallingford Recreation Department, schools and directly to families in need. This year, a basket is being put aside for the Torres family, whose home was damaged in a fire last month.
“It’s so rewarding, and really breathtaking,” Colantonio said. “We really take this to heart.”
The annual event was an extension of a ladies’ night that the group organized 22 years ago. Colantonio, wanting to build a network of friends, passed out flyers to get a group together each month. It started with bowling, arts and crafts, and movies. But after awhile, Lentine suggested the group of about 14 should make their hangouts more meaningful.
“We always did something for ourselves, but I wanted to give back,” Lentine said. “It’s nice to pay it forward.”
In November, each member of the “The Lady Nighters” buys canned goods and other non-perishables and then gathers to pack them into the baskets. The first year the group made six baskets. Last year, they made 16. One of Lentine’s favorite parts of the process is the natural and spontaneous act of bringing all the food together.
“There’s really no organization,” she said. “We tell the ladies to go out and buy what you would normally buy for your family on Thanksgiving. Just show up, and bring what you bought.”
“If everyone does one kind thing for others, it makes all the difference,” she added. “Anybody can do it. It doesn’t take much.”