Tolland High School students Shelby Mathieu and Carlina Fontaine may still be young, but they know the importance of having holiday cheer during this special time of the year. The girls, as well as numerous other Tolland residents, have donated to the Care and Share program, run through the town, to create holiday miracles for local families in need.
"It's easy to forget about how many people there are that need help," high school senior Mathieu said, explaining that she was inspired to organize a large-scale donation after reading an article saying that there were already 1,700 families in the Tri-Town Food Pantry's district that were in need this year.
"I really wanted to be able to help those families," she said. Mathieu lived up to her words, and in a big way.
With the help of her friend, junior Carlina Fontaine, and Mathieu's family, the girls wrote up a letter calling for donations and dropped them off in the mailboxes of four Tolland neighborhoods. A week later, on the designated pick up date, the girls collected the donations. All together, they ended up donating almost three car loads of food to the Care and Share program.
"When we returned, we were amazed," Mathieu said. "People left big donations on their porch."
Mathieu and Fontaine weren't done bringing holiday joys to others, however. The girls and some friends spent a day cooking almost 500 cookies from scratch so those in need could enjoy homemade desserts.
"You can feel the care that's made with those cookies," Mathieu said. Mathieu's mother bought the ingredients for the project, and volunteered her kitchen for the day of baking.
While they put in a lot of hard work, Fontaine said that being able to help others makes all the effort worth their while.
"I have such a good time with my family," Fontaine said of her holidays. "I want everyone see to have the same experience."
For those who are still interested in giving, Youth Services Coordinator Nancy Dunn said that Care and Share is still accepting food and gift donations for the rest of the holiday season.
She said that Tolland residents have already donated meals for 46 senior households and 63 families this holiday season.
"We have a lot of neighborhoods that get together and sponsor a family," Dunn said. She added that the group particularly needs gift donations for older children, who can harder to donate for.
Anyone interested in donating can contact Dunn at email@example.com or at 860-871-3612.