Groton Human Services distributes 410 Thanksgiving food baskets

Fitch High School students, with the school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter, from left, James Lowney, 18, Casey Flax, 16, and Nikiah Perry, 15, help staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fitch High School students, with the school's Future Business Leaders of America chapter, from left, James Lowney, 18, Casey Flax, 16, and Nikiah Perry, 15, help staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Groton — Volunteers distributed 410 Thanksgiving food baskets on Friday at Groton Human Services, where people filled the office lobby.

“This helps me so much. You don’t know,” said Rosa Manso, 58. She lives with her husband, daughter and a grandson, and said she was injured after boxes fell on her in a warehouse. Her husband drives a school bus. The human service office is the only place she’s gone to seek help, she said.

In prior years, Groton Human Services gave out 500 baskets of food and turkeys, but had fewer people sign up this year. Director Marge Fondulas said the department hasn’t seen a decline in requests for food or financial assistance.

“I don’t know if we have an explanation,” she said, but added, “I don’t think it’s an indicator that people are having an easier time.”

Christina Martini, 50, also waited in the line. She has multiple sclerosis and is raising a grandson, 10, along with her own son, 15.

“As a grandparent raising a grandchild on a very, very modest income, our holidays would be nonexistent” without help, she said.

Samantha Johnson, 32, said the basket would help stretch her food for her sons, who “are eating everything.” Her boys, ages 8 and 12, go through four gallons of milk, four dozen eggs and three loaves of bread a week, she said. She has about $500 per month left after paying rent.

Her friend, Marilyn Lugo, 40, who works part-time at a day care center, described “balancing my food” with careful planning to make sure she doesn’t run out. “I manage,” she said. “I don’t even know how I do. And I always try to keep something in the bank.”

Counselor Diane Schrage hugged several people as they arrived in the waiting room. Everyone seemed in good spirits, she said.

Tim Hodge, 41, said the department staff not only help, but understand what families are going through. "They get it," he said.

Outside, Groton City police officers and other volunteers loaded boxes of food, turkeys and pastries into the cars.

“It’s nice to see the smile on their face when they get the food, because then they know that they’re going to be fine,” said Hannah Vela, 15, who volunteered with the Robert E. Fitch High School Falcon Business Society.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Missy Cavanaugh, records clerk for the City of Groton Police, collects food basket vouchers as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Missy Cavanaugh, records clerk for the City of Groton Police, collects food basket vouchers as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
UConn Avery Point basketball player Bobby Atkins, left, and Fitch High School student James Lowney put food in the back seat of a client's car as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
UConn Avery Point basketball player Bobby Atkins, left, and Fitch High School student James Lowney put food in the back seat of a client's car as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A shopping cart full of frozen turkeys waits nearby as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A shopping cart full of frozen turkeys waits nearby as staff and volunteers at Groton Human Services distribute food baskets to clients Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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