Town Times News: Crisis Fund hits an all-time low for donations, Town Hall employees contest proceeds to benefit

Thomaston Crisis Fund
As part of a door decorating contest at Thomaston’s Town Hall, is the Treasurer’s Office, voted Most Original.

By Robby Piazzaroli
Thursday, December 26, 2013

THOMASTON, CT — This has been a tough year financially for many people, but most of all, charity and donations seem to be hitting an all-time low as well.

Local organizations have reported their lowest holiday donations, including money, clothing, gifts, food, etc. for those in need. The Thomaston Social Services Office is no different, according to Director Elizabeth Dobos.

“The donations have been very, very low this year,” she said. “The Christmas season has been different. We have just received some last-minute donations from the Women’s Fellowship from the First Congregational Church and from Ward Leonard, but it’s very low this year. I was down to $100 in the Crisis Fund. That’s scary.”

Ward Leonard, a motor control solutions company in Thomaston, has just recently donated $4,000, something that will go entirely to helping local residents survive the winter months. The Thomaston Lions’ Club purchased Christmas presents and a meal for a family in town as well this year.

Seeing the need for donations for the Crisis Fund and a little holiday cheer, Thomaston Democratic Registrar Carol J. Hoebel came up with a way that Town Hall employees could raise some money.

With a $5 entry fee, all town departments could enter the “Town Hall Door Decorating Contest.” All proceeds and any donations would go to the Crisis Fund, which helps those in need, especially in emergency cases. According to Ms. Dobos, emergencies covered would include heating, food, etc. for those in need.

“Every year, they need money,” said Ms. Hoebel. “I know they get a lot of people last minute who need emergency money for gas and heat and I thought it would be nice to be able to help the Crisis Fund a bit.”

In total, nine departments participated, including the Planning and Zoning; Registrar of Voters; Assessor; Selectman; Tax Collector; Police Department; Treasurer; Town Clerk; and Building, Veteran’s and Cemetery offices. Their doors were decorated in various themes and concepts, all having to do with the holiday season.

The winner for favorite door was the Selectman’s Office, which featured a six-foot snowman made of plastic cups and other crafting items. Administrative Assistant and door decorator Deborah Bournival said she was happy the snowman stayed up, since its construction was fragile. The 3-D figure was complete with a hat, shoes and scattered snowflakes along the floor.

The door voted with the most originality was the Treasurer’s Office, which featured the department employee’s faces situated on the bodies of elves. A construction paper fireplace and stockings rounded out the decorations.

The prize for most festive door went to the Planning and Zoning Office, which featured a North Pole theme, complete with a garland of sweet treats and Santa flying through the air.

Together with donations, the contest raised $70 for the Crisis Fund, with prizes awarded at the employee holiday luncheon. Ms. Hoebel said she hopes to hold a contest every year to help raise funds, and possibly have a wreath decorating contest next year.

“For its first year, I think it was great,” she said. “Everyone got into it and the doors looked great. It’s nice that we can do something, even if it’s just something little, to help the emergency Crisis Fund.”

According to Ms. Dobos, Thomaston had roughly 100 children registered in need this year. The Christmas Committee put together holiday baskets for them.

“In the past, we were able to help people out with food or gas cards, but we didn’t receive many this year,” said Ms. Dobos. “People have to apply for the help and they have to really prove they need it. The number of people in need of energy assistance, food stamps or have a low income is increasing. The donations we will have in the Crisis Fund now is great, but almost $5,000 can go very fast. We will certainly be using it in only the most dire of circumstances.”

Ms. Dobos told the story of a local man who lived alone, who recently had an amputation and has been in the hospital for six weeks. He would be returning home on Christmas Eve, without food and anyone to care for him or help him.

She was lucky enough to find volunteers to help shovel the snow from his driveway and walk, make food for him so he has a Christmas dinner, and had someone clean his home for him. She said thanks to some of the funds she can use, in addition to her volunteers, she is able to help people who could otherwise starve or even run out of gas or heat during the winter weather.

“It’s things like that, that make me love my job,” she said. “Those ‘needs’ don’t really fall into any kind of category, but I was able to help… People in Thomaston have been very generous and caring though. It’s just been a tough year for donations everywhere.”


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