Storm put a dent in some holiday fundraisers, others on schedule

Hurricane Sandy delayed the start of some holiday food drives and fundraisers in the region, but others went forward as scheduled despite the Oct. 29 storm that devastated parts of the state's coastline and left thousands without power for days.

Country radio station 97.7 WCTY's 14th annual food drive at the Big Y grocery store in Norwich was the most successful ever, the station's Program Director Dave Elder said Monday.

"We weren't going to let Sandy ruin things. Whatever we collected would stay right here in southeastern Connecticut because the need is great here," Elder said.

During the 36-hour food drive the first two days in November, more than 37,000 pounds of food and $8,000 were donated. In addition to nonperishable food, hundreds of warm clothing items, coats, flashlights, batteries, blankets and bottled water also were donated.

"It really was unbelievable, it really was," Elder said. "I've lived here my whole life and worked at WCTY for 20 years and never seen anything like it. It was truly amazing and a lot of people that came out where the same people who could use the help themselves. You're just in awe of what people have done."

Two tractor trailers of food were brought to the Gemma E. Moran food center on Saturday and the $8,000 - $2,000 of which was donated by line crews from Norwich Public Utilities - will go to TVCCA.

The storm, however, has put a damper on the New London Neighborhood Alliance Adopt-a-Family Program, which every year collects gifts and money for more than 100 New London families in need.

"The storm pushed us back from organizing,'' said Cathi Strother of New London, who works for the Bailey Agencies in Groton and is in charge of the Adopt-a-Family committee. "It pushed us back from starting. Overall, the economy will give us a lot to collect for. Usually everything is set in stone by now. I've been collecting food and clothing for Gemma Moran."

Strother has also been busy collecting items for hurricane victims in New Jersey. Her front porch is filled with diapers, pillows, coats, clothing, blankets, cleaning products and buckets, which she intends to bring to those in need in South Jersey.

"There's been a lot going on with this storm,'' said Strother, who is originally from New Jersey and has family there. "Not too many were affected here. We did have trees down and power outages, and it was devastating stuff, but not compared with New York and New Jersey."

Although her family in New Jersey is safe, she said she put out a call to her Facebook friends asking for donations. She said she and her husband will load up their trailer later this week and drive the goods to New Jersey.

The Insurance Professionals of Eastern Connecticut, of which Strother is also a member, held their annual meeting on Saturday in Groton, collecting nonperishable goods from its members. Last year the group donated 800 pounds of food.

Also in Groton, the One Warm Coat community service project is accepting donations of gently used coats and jackets until Nov. 30. Donated children's sized jackets and coats will be distributed free of charge to local children through The Riverfront's Children Center. Liberty Tax in Groton is accepting coats from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located on 955 Poquonnock Road. For more information, call (860) 448-2937.

In Ledyard, the police department in conjunction with StarrWoods Village Market will hold its annual "Stuff a Cruiser" fundraiser to collect nonperishable food items to deliver to the Ledyard food pantry. A police cruiser will also be positioned in front of the market from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday to accept donations.

Old Lyme police are also conducting a food drive 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Old Lyme Shopping Center. All proceeds will be delivered to the Lymes Youth Services Bureau and the Lymes Senior Center.

On Dec. 7, the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut Foundation will hold its 29th annual Holiday Gala at the Uncas Ballroom.

Since 2002, the gala has raised $768,000 to help children in the region and last year, was able to support 21 local organizations - including The Tommy Toy Fund, Covenant Shelter, CT Adoption Center, United Way, St. Vincent DePaul Place, High Hopes and MASH - with $86,200 in grants.


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