VERNON-- Food drives are now kicking off for the holiday season, and this year there's additional need for help in Connecticut cities and towns.
Many who oversee food drives in suburban towns and more affluent parts of the state say the need for food assistance is continuing to increase.
In Vernon Thursday afternoon, a kick-off ceremony was held for the sixth annual Emergency of Hunger Food Drive. Fire officials, police, EMS, hospital staff, Rotary and others are participating to help make a difference.
Over the last five seasons the drive has garnered 147,000 food and personal care items, 4,710 turkeys and more than $96,000 in cash, checks and gift cards.
Last year, fire, police and first responders personally helped to collect 25,000 food items and more than $10,000 in cash and gift cards for many suburban families in need.
“We’ve all heard the stories-- where economy changes, everyone thinks everything is better, but there's still all those folks who don't get what the services they need necessarily,” said food drive organizer David Skoczulek.
The food drive originated in Manchester, but has now branched out to surrounding towns.
Rocky Hill is the newest addition this year. "We knew there was a need in-town, we reached out to human services director and indeed they needed something like this," said Skoczulek.
Considered a quaint Greater Hartford town, Rocky Hill may not be thought of as place where many families would struggle. This year, more than 200 households are accessing the town's pantry--a sharp increase from the 168 households that accessed the pantry in 2013.
"The economy has hit everybody, everywhere. There is a perception, unfortunately, that certain towns or certain families or people are not struggling. That just really is not the truth, we're seeing it across the board with everybody," said Melissa Hicks, director of human services for the town of Rocky Hill.
Dave Decker is one of those Rocky Hill residents. He's relied on the food pantry for 10 years, and says getting back on his feet just isn't so easy. "[The food pantry] helps if you're not getting a lot of money and relying on a social security check," Decker said.
The Hockanum Valley Community food pantry in Vernon serves more than 2,000 families in other small communities like Tolland and Ellington--another part of the state with a growing need for assistance.
"Many of those less fortunate people, when they see the food drive, they are one of the first to want to give want to give something back," said Dave Engleson, CEO of Hockanum Valley Community Council.
The following Stop & Shop locations are participating in the drive:
- Manchester: 286 Broad St. Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Rockville: 50 Windsorville Rd. Nov. 15 and 16. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Rocky Hill: 80 Town Line Rd. Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Vernon: 10 Pitkin Rd. Nov. 15 and 16. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- South Windsor: 1739 Ellington Rd. Nov. 15, 16. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Windsor: 1095 Kennedy Rd. Nov. 22 and 23. 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
There is also one Geisslers location in South Windsor participating:
South Windsor: 965 Sullivan Ave. Nov. 15, 16. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (Geisslers)