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8 places to spread holiday cheer in the area


MERIDEN – Following a record $3.1 billion raised on Giving Tuesday in the U.S. alone, the holidays are often a time of generosity and goodwill. In the Meriden-Wallingford area, a number of local charities and nonprofits collect donations of food, clothing and toys.

There are a number of ways to give on a budget and at a convenient location, even online.

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Want to spread some holiday cheer? Here are a few options. 

1. Wallingford Holiday for Giving

Where: Online, dropbox at Parks and Recreation Office

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End date: Dec. 10

This year, 242 families will receive food bags, gift cards and toys for the holidays through Holiday for Giving, said committee volunteer Melissa Mercado.

Run exclusively by volunteers, Mercado said there were still a few slots left open for volunteers who wanted to help sort toys or give away items next week. She said most toys have been collected already, but there was still a dropbox at the office of the Parks and Recreation Department.

She added that the organization also created an Amazon registry with food, clothes and toys that were delivered directly to the organization.

For more information, visit: https://www.holidayforgiving.org

2. Wallingford Toys for Tots

Where: Online, Gaetano’s Tavern on Main

End Date: Dec. 15

Jim Fitzsimmons and his childhood best friend Holly Short Lafond have hosted an annual Toys for Tots Party in Wallingford for the past 32 years. The two share a December birthday and have collected more than 90,000 toys for the United States Marine Corp Toys for Tots program, according to the group’s Facebook Page.

“They used to do it [Toys for Tots] for their birthday every year,” remembered Debbie Pacileo, co-owner of Gaetano’s Tavern on Main. “Instead of a party, they would do Toys for Tots.”

Pacileo said Short passed away unexpectedly after a battle with cancer. However, Fitzimmons still plans on hosting the annual collection party at Gaetaono’s Tavern on Main to honor his friend.

For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/ToysTotsCT

3. Salvation Army Angel Tree

Where: Online, Meriden Mall, Meriden Salvation Army

End Date: Dec.16

The Meriden Salvation Army is collecting new, unwrapped toys and clothing for children ages up to 12, said Salvation Army Captain Valerie Rivera. The nonprofit partnered with Boscov’s in the Meriden Mall to decorate the Boscov’s tree with sponsorship tags.

For in-person donations, Rivera said it’s best to drop them off inside the Salvation Army headquarters at 23 St. Casimir Dr. in Meriden, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For online shoppers, Rivera added that the Salvation Army partnered with Walmart to create an online gift registry that will be delivered directly to children.

Rivera suggested any number of age-appropriate toys, including coloring books and dolls, but said legos were always a good choice.“We always need legos,” she said.

For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/TheSalvationArmyMeridenCT/

4. ‘Tis the Season for a Senior

Where: Meriden Senior Center, Meriden Public Library, Meriden City Hall

End Date: Dec. 16

The Meriden Senior Center is hosting its annual holiday gift drive to celebrate Meriden’s senior citizens, said Social Services Worker Natalie Gill. While many holiday programs focus on children and families, Gill started the giveaway program eight years ago to focus on seniors who are forgotten or far from their families during the holidays.

“A lot of our seniors are isolated,” she explained. “They come here [the senior center] as a social component.”

Gill said there are dropboxes for new, unwrapped gifts at the Meriden Public Library, the Senior Center and City Hall.

She added that they will take anything, but blankets often make popular gifts.

5. Meriden Police Department

Where: Meriden Police Station, Main Street businesses

End Date: Dec. 20

The Meriden Police office is collecting new and unwrapped bedding, clothes, toys, gift cards and cash, said Officer Jeff Witkin of the Meriden Police Department.

As the leader of the Police Cadets, Witkin explained that the donations would be collected by the department and given to the Chrysalis Center and the local youth shelter.

He suggested children’s toys of all ages and gift items for young women aged 16-21.

Witkin added there are three collection boxes: one at the Meriden Police station, one at Illiano’s Ristorante & Pizzeria at 510 W Main St. and one across the street at Marketing Graphics at 531 W. Main Street.

For more information, contact Jeff Witkin at [email protected]

6. United Way Giving Tree

Where: Meriden Public Library at the Meriden Mall

End Date: Dec. 20

Hundreds of tags are on display at the holiday tree at the Meriden Mall, said United Way Marketing and Outreach Director Julia Pelletier.

She explained the United Way partnered with eight agencies to collect the holiday wishlist for about 500 people of all ages.

Each tag is unique and varies everywhere from socks to toys to art supplies.

After picking up a tag from the giving tree and purchasing the item, Pelletier said the unwrapped item and tag can be dropped off at the Mall Management Office or the security office of the Meriden Mall.

For more information, visit: https://unitedwaymw.org/event/holidayprograms/

7. GLOW Food Pantry

Where: The Rock Church, 26 Parker Farms Road, Wallingford.

End Date: Dec. 23

GLOW Food Pantry is looking for donations of unwrapped toys, nonperishable food, hygiene items and cleaning supplies, said food pantry leader Rajan Doering.

Doering said small donations can be left in the lower parking lot at any time or at town hall and at Parks and Recreation.

Doering added that The Rock Church is also running an adopt-a-child program to match donors with specific needs and gifts for a child or a family.

Even though the pantry runs year-round, he said some items might be especially helpful after the holidays when families are still in need and a lot of the holiday-specific programs have dried up.

For more information, call or text Rajan Doering at 203 208 8534.

8. Master’s Manna Mitten Tree

Where: Wallingford Public Library

End Date: Dec. 31

Every year, a mitten tree grows at the Wallingford Public Library. Head of Adult Programming & Community Service Leah Farrell explained that the library was a longtime partner of Master’s Manna dropsite.

In addition to their usual collection of nonperishable items, the library is also collecting new and handmade mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, socks and coats.

[email protected], Twitter: @lguzm_n

Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.


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