As normal life has paused in the last month and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future, much of our existence has been boiled down to the basics. We focus on health, home, how best to spend our time, and the food and supplies needed for ourselves and our families. While everyone applauds the people on the front lines–which includes not only healthcare workers and first responders, but grocery store clerks, utility service providers, delivery drivers, and more–most of us are unsure of how best to help in times of crises like this one. Others across the nation, including many specifically in our towns of New Fairfield and Sherman, have become heroes among us, altruistically stepping up to offer aid and gratitude in myriad ways.
Kevin Morgan, a near-lifelong resident of New Fairfield, originally conceived of The Pizza’s on Us as a way for he and his wife, Kim, to do something nice for the town and help others in financial need. He pictured them donating $1000 to offer free meals, but when they contacted friends and family–including many who live outside of town–the idea grew beyond anything they’d imagined. In its first week, 100 pizzas were given out to cash-strapped New Fairfield families from Portofino’s. With funding in place to offer pizzas every Tuesday in April, and with plans to continue in May, the pizzas will be served in a rotation by Portofino’s, Biscotti’s, Bruno’s, and The 440 Line. The pies will be served to families at no cost, with the only stipulation being that, when they place an order for one large pizza each, they use the code “The Pizza’s on Us.” A win-win for residents, as well as restaurants, The Pizza’s on Us has become a bright spot in many homes in town.
Another fundraiser that benefits both local businesses and first line workers, has been coordinated by Keri Peloso, whose community-driven Go Fund Me to feed first responders has been well received and remarkably successful, raising nearly $10K. “I really just wanted to help,” she said, “These restaurants are staples in the community, and our first line teams are everything! So, by buying food (in a no contact way) and delivering, it helps the restaurants stay afloat and also provides food, snacks, and sweets to our teams that are working tirelessly.” She says that the fundraiser has thrived on donations as small as $5 or $10 to upwards of $250, which gives everyone the chance to contribute and send thanks. Peloso began by organizing food deliveries individually and has recently started working through the Meal Train that was organized by Danbury Hospital.
New Fairfield High School seniors have been a force during the lockdown, including Cora Ruiz, who offered nearly immediately after schools and non-essential businesses shut down to grocery shop for fellow town residents. She’s shopped more than a dozen times for the elderly and young families, saying “From the very start, I wore gloves, a mask and made sure to sanitize everything before starting the shopping. I got some wild looks from other patrons, but as time went forward this evolved. There was an undeniable sense of panic, some low boiling fear that was in stores. Something that was once so mundane became competitive and defensive. In the beginning, I noticed mothers with small children in the store (most without masks), but recently I have not seen anyone young in the stores.” Her classmate, Dawson Remington, found a way to give back by creating Peg’s Mobile Food Pantry, which was inspired by his great grandmother, Peg, who ran a food pantry for over 30 years and recently passed away. Remington says of this, the first fundraiser he has ever coordinated, that the “responses from people that need help, and people that want to help, have been amazing.” He is distributing food every Saturday, from 9am to 12pm in the Squantz Pond Fire Department parking lot.
New Fairfield High School’s Principal, James D’Amico said “We are extraordinarily proud of these seniors who are inspiring action in their community and showing that our young people are ready and able to bring people together. These students truly exemplify our Rebel values!” The students also include senior Emily Quinn who had completed 419 masks when we spoke this past Monday, with no plans of stopping. She said that, as an avid current events follower, she felt like “the world was kind of falling apart” and, after the Centers for Disease Control issued mask guidance, it felt good to find a way to help people. Having studied fashion throughout her years at NFHS, and with plans to study it in college as well, she put her skills to work while her mother, Kay, fielded hundreds of messages that told the tale of local residents who were desperate for the feeling of security in having a mask, including elderly and immuno-compromised town residents. NFPS Superintendent, Dr. Pat Cosentino, concurred with D’Amico in feeling pride for the students’ service, “Giving back and service to our community is an important lesson that we weave into all we do in New Fairfield. I am so proud of our students as they serve those in need.”
Local restaurants have gone above and beyond, such as New Fairfield’s The 440 Line’s commitment to offer free meals to health care workers. Owner, Justin Merten-Slodowski, created the successful fundraiser Real Heroes Don’t Wear Capes to feed doctors, nurses, and medical personnel. Mertn started delivering meals to Danbury Hospital’s workers on April 1 and has continued to feed them since. Astonishingly, he and Biscotti’s owner, Scott Haines, funded by Mars Electric, served over 900 meals at Danbury Hospital on Easter.
The Town Tribune is teaming up with The Goodie Shoppe in New Fairfield and Sacred Grounds Coffee in Sherman to provide complimentary coffee to all postal workers and first responders for the next two weeks, available for pickup at both locations. “We are excited to do our part to give back to these front-line workers. As always, these advertisers were ready to support their community and partner with us without hesitation,” said Publishers Marylou Schirmer and Kate Mattiace. “Just stop in and tell them the Town Tribune sent you!”
Sherman’s residents are finding ways to give back with hundreds of dollars’ worth of gift cards to restaurants, such as American Pie Company, and other supply stores that have been donated for residents in need. In addition to their regular food deliveries to seniors, the Sherman Senior Center is delivering over 70 meals per week to households in need.
New Fairfield’s town food pantry is working with the Congregational Church of New Fairfield to provide a pickup location for residents who need food and supplies. With bins available for donations, or for timed pickups, in the church’s parking lot, New Fairfield’s food insecure have a place to turn for restocking. Visit Newfairfield.org for updates.
These are only a handful of the stories of giving that are happening in our area and beyond in this oddly removed space in time. Bridges will continue to be built around us going forward, effectively filling gaps that have grown or creating paths for outreach to give thanks, in the wake of the pandemic. Ruiz poetically expressed what many of us feel about our hometowns right now, “the incredible acts of charity that have occurred since the start of the pandemic [have] renewed my love for New Fairfield. It is too easy to develop a jaded perspective of the world around us, and I hope that this event is looked on in retrospect in the future. It truly captures the harmonious fellowship that our town possesses.”
To contribute to the above fundraisers, please go to:
Story by Sarah Opdahl