Newtown Salvation Army Unit Thanks Volunteers With Breakfast, Bell Ringers

Newtown Salvation Army hosted a Thank You Breakfast & Volunteer Event at Newtown Congregational Church on Saturday, November 12.

Local unit volunteers were invited to meet with chapter members and enjoy bagels, donuts, coffee, and other refreshments. Those attending were encouraged to bring a new person interested in volunteering this Red Kettle season.

A sign-up sheet was available for December bell ringing. Volunteers are needed for the weekends of December 9 to 10 and 16 to 17. Ringing will take place at the following locations: Stop & Shop, within Sand Hill Plaza; Yankee Wine & Liquor, 6 Queen Street; Dunkin’ Donuts, 6 Queen Street; Newtown General Store, 43 Main Street; Walgreens, 49 South Main Street; and Bagel Delight, 30 Church Hill Road.

Salvation Army Newtown Unit President Glenn J. Nanavaty gathered everyone together and said, “The main purpose of this breakfast reception is to say thank you to our volunteers, because thanks to you last year through bell ringing and friendly donations, we raised about $10,000, which was more than our goal. That helps the people in the Newtown community.”

He then introduced Debbie White, Salvation Army director of service, to say a few words.

“To the volunteers who manage and guide the service unit, to those who extend human services to individuals and families, and to the volunteers who raise money not only in the holidays but for Christmas in July, I commend you,” White said. “As a direct result of your commitment and dedication, lives are being changed, families are being restored, and crisis situations are being addressed and effectively handled.”

She added, “My hope is that we can continue to stand united and love beyond through this year and many more years to come. So again, thank you for all you do.”

Captain Joshua Jones, Salvation Army divisional youth secretary and program secretary for all of Connecticut and Rhode Island, spoke next about the impact kettle bell ringers have nationally.

“During the summer, we get the opportunity to run a summer camp for children ages 6 to 13, many of them out of situations maybe with not great neighborhoods or difficult home situations. To come for a week of overnight camp and have the opportunity to have an experience that’s different can be transformative and life-changing for them,” Jones said. “That is just one of, as you know, many different ministries and services the Salvation Army offers around the country and the world.”

He then recapped the history of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program and how it dates back to 1891.

“There was a captain named Joseph McPhee in San Francisco who looked around and said, ‘There are a lot of needy people in my community who I want to provide a Christmas dinner for but I need to find out how to fund it,’” Jones said.

He put out a pot with a sign beneath it that read, “Keep the pot boiling.” People put money in it, and he raised enough to feed 1,000 people on Christmas day.

“The tradition was born. Pretty soon, within a few years, it had spread all the way to the east coast. By the end of the 1800s, the Salvation Army was doing Christmas meals for millions of thousands of people. And today, the Salvation Army, through the holiday efforts alone, serves millions of families,” Jones said.

He emphasized that the efforts of bell ringers in Newtown are part of making a big impact in town and the world.

“I want to thank you for doing your part in your community. Not for the Salvation Army, but for your neighbors, for those that need you,” Jones said. “Thank you for loving your neighbors, thank you for helping us to continue to extend a hand during this kettle season … God bless.”

The last guest speaker of the morning was Newtown’s Director of Human Services Natalie Jackson, who coordinates receiving the collected money from Salvation Army and uses it to help residents.

“I wanted to share a little bit about the impact you all have on helping us help our neighbors throughout the whole year,” she said. “The mission of the Department of Human Services is [about] supporting a high quality of life for the Newtown community through services, programs, and information that provide mental, physical, and social well-being … we do so with respect, compassion, and accountability.”

Jackson explained that 90 cents of every dollar that is raised through the local red kettle campaign comes to Newtown.

“We are able to use those funds throughout the year to help residents in need. We do things all year like helping neighbors access [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] SNAP food assistance, energy assistance, potential rebates, access services they may need in the home, like home care, long term resources; but a lot of what we do is emergency intervention,” she said.

Jackson went on to detail that last year there were seven requests for rent assistance, and it has gone up to 21 requests this year.

The Department of Human Services helps deliver items from the food pantry to those in need and helps residents get emergency food when they are waiting for that delivery.

“We also process energy assistance applications,” Jackson said. “In 2021-2022, we had 161 households, 31 had children in the home, and that was an increase from 35 households from the prior year.”

Since that energy assistance support does not begin until November 1, some have exhausted their fuel ahead of time so the Department of Human Services steps in to do emergency deliveries.

“That’s all Salvation Army funds that allow us to do that … we did an emergency fuel delivery just the other day of 100 gallons for $570. It used to be we could do an emergency delivery for about $250, so you can image how much we need your help this year,” Jackson said.

She went on to say the Salvation Army funds even help with auto repairs, insurance payments, and emergency home repairs.

“These are very difficult times for many, and we are bracing for what we expect to be a difficult winter. When you are standing out there ringing this year and your fingers start to get numb, we hope knowing what an incredible impact you have warms your soul,” Jackson concluded.

For more information and to learn more about bell ringing in Newtown, email newtownringers@yahoo.com.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

From left is Newtown Salvation Army volunteer Steve Bennett, volunteer Sylvia Poulin, Director of Service Debbie White, Divisional Youth Secretary/Program Secretary Captain Joshua Jones, volunteer Peg Forbell, volunteer Marie Sturdevant, Newtown Unit President Glenn J. Nanavaty, and past unit president Dick Sturdevant at the group’s breakfast reception for volunteers at Newtown Congregational Church on Saturday, November 12. —Bee Photos, Silber

Salvation Army Divisional Youth Secretary/Program Secretary Captain Joshua Jones, right, speaks to residents about the history of the Red Kettle campaign during the breakfast reception to thank volunteers on November 12. Pictured second from right is Newtown’s Director of Human Services Natalie Jackson.

A resident signs up to volunteer in December for the Red Kettle bell ringing campaign.

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