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Tis the Season: For Charitable Giving

For most of us the holiday season is a time of fun, family, gifts and an abundance of food. But for others, even here in Glastonbury, there often isn’t enough food or presents to go around. 

The Christmas season is a time of giving and helping those in need and there are groups in our region whose members donate their time to making sure everyone has a happy holiday. 

For the past 26 years members of the Rotary Club of Glastonbury have worked with the Salvation Army to provide food, diapers and other goods for The Glastonbury Rotary Baby Needs Drive. Last year the Rotary, working with local businesses such as Highland Park Market, Brookside Market and ShopRite, was able to purchase $17,000 worth of baby needs for the Salvation Army at Christmastime.

Every holiday season The Salvation Army in Connecticut collects food, toys, clothing and money, but some of the things that are needed most - baby supplies such as diapers, food, formula, and wipes - are rarely received. So the local Rotary Club decided to help out by focusing specifically on getting those types of donations. 

The town’s Social Services Department also has a year-round program to help those in need through its Food Bank, Fuel Bank and the annual holiday gift program, said Karen Carfi, a social work coordinator with the department. 

Social Services workers distribute toys and store gift cards to eligible families in mid-December. People who want to take part in the program anonymously can sign up by emailing or by calling 860-652-7640. Once signed up, volunteers then will be matched to a child on the department’s list. Volunteers can then shop from that child’s wish list of toys. Volunteers are asked to deliver the gifts to the Riverfront Community Center for distribution.

Volunteers can also sign up through the town’s website, 

In the last three years, Carfi said, an average of 250 local children each year have gotten holiday gifts through the program. 

Social Services also is seeking monetary donations so the department can donate food gift cards to needy local families, Carfi said. That program is being run through the town’s Glastonbury Gives program. While the town used to seek out nonperishable food items through the local food bank, Carfi said they had to stop doing that during the pandemic and switched to gift food cards instead. 

“We were giving out grocery store gift cards during the pandemic and we’re still doing that for the time being until everything fully reopens again. We are, however, taking in donations so we can purchase those gift cards.” 

Glastonbury Gives is the umbrella program for all giving programs the town operates (except for the Christmas gift program) including the food pantry, fuel bank, rental assistance program and back to school programs.  It was created by Glastonbury Social Services to assist residents experiencing a crisis situation, to help pay for food, utility bills, shelter costs, medical expenses and other critical needs. It’s  funded entirely through donations and 100 percent of the money collected goes directly to residents in need.

“Any donations to Glastonbury Gives helps throughout the whole year,” Carfi said. 

Besides the town-sponsored programs the Glastonbury Police Department, in coordination with the fire department and local emergency services, holds an annual holiday “Stuff an Emergency Vehicle” toy drive. 

Also each year a local bus driver for Glastonbury schools, Vinny DiNatalie, a member of the Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, hosts a “Cram the Van” fundraiser where donors can drop off  new, unwrapped toy for needy children. 

Again this year, DiNatalie will park his van at Irvings Mobile at 890 South Main St., in South Glastonbury where he’ll be accepting donations from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

  • Vinny DiNatalie collects toy for his "Cram a Van" holiday toy drive.
  • Members of the Rotary Club of Glastonbury take part each year in a baby need's drive.