Students, volunteers bomb New London with warmth, charity

New London — Julian and Avery Teel almost tipped over — either in excitement or under the weight of the massive scarf-stuffed bags they lugged around in the Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School cafeteria on Saturday morning.

But Julian and Avery, at 10 and 7 years old, are five-year veterans of the New London Scarf Bomb, and like dozens of other students and volunteers they came prepared in warm coats and fuzzy hats to drape colorful scarves on fences, trees, signs and benches in city parks and public squares to help those in need stay warm this winter.

"I lived in New London a long time and we come back every year to do it," said their mother, Katelin Teel, of Quaker Hill. "I think with the way we're becoming a more disconnected society, events like this, where people come out to support the community, are amazing."

While multiple schools and churches participate, Bennie Dover serves as ground zero for the Scarf Bomb, now in its fifth year. Before heading out into the city, students, educators and volunteers gather in the cafeteria and attach a positive message to each scarf: "Keep yourself warm ... courtesy of your friends and neighbors. If you need warm shelter, call 211."

"It's a way of being warm toward the most needy in our community," said Daneen Roth, a retired teacher and president of the Public Library of New London Board of Trustees. "When you go by and see all the scarves on trees and fences it has a festive look, so it's a celebration of unity and community effort. There are people spending most of the year knitting or crocheting scarves. The selection is beautiful."

Also toting large bags and hanging scarves throughout the city were STEM Magnet Middle School sixth-graders Hannah Hallisey and Addy Muggeo-Taggart and seventh-grader Fabian Villate, who worked together with other students over the last month to make hundreds of scarves in the "Love Grows" after-school community service program under the guidance of teacher Debbie Furgueson.

"I'm doing this because my grandpa does this too. He gives back to the community," Muggeo-Taggart said.

New London attorney Sue Connolly, who founded the event with a few organizers before Bennie Dover and other schools got involved, said the "organized chaos" throughout the day would result in almost 1,000 scarves and other accessories being made available to those in need.

Organizers at the last minute also got the word out to start up a donation bin for Coast Guard members impacted by the federal government shutdown, with residents bringing in a mix of household goods, clothes, food and diapers.

Bennie Dover Principal Alison Burdick called it a "well thought-out, well-oiled machine by some well-intended community members."

Waterford attorney Sue Carr has helped the event by using a portion of her office as a collection spot for donated scarves. Her office throughout the year also serves as a dropoff point for backpacks, socks, tampons and other donated items for the homeless shelter and schools.

"We collected 200 scarves this week and I knitted a few," she said smiling.

As she helped tag scarves next to Roth, New London Board of Education member Mirna Martinez said the many positive events in the city show "there's a number of good people here who care about the community. All of these put together are like the different threads that make up a cozy warm scarf."

b.kail@theday.com

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