BENNINGTON — With Thanksgiving fast approaching, the Catamount Rotary Club is once again teaming up with the Department for Children and Families to spread the "Spirit of Sharing."
The program, which collects donations of presents and connects them to families in need, was founded in 1983, but faded out of existence around 2008, said Anne Mook, the former state representative from Bennington and member of the Catamount Rotary Club. In 1983, 33 families were served. By the time the program died out, it was bringing food to 1,000 families and toys to 900 children. Last year, Mook, Beth Sausville, district director of DCF, and Sadie Fischesser, Agency of Human Services field director for Bennington and Windham counties, revived the program. Needing to build the program effectively from scratch, they decided to start small, but a huge number of donations and volunteers allowed them to serve 159 children in 80 families. This year, they hope they can do even more.
"The outpouring of support from the community last year was absolutely phenomenal," said Sauville, "It was great for the community as a whole to come together over something positive."
Families in need can register for the program through DCF, by either contacting Sausville at email@example.com, or calling her at her office at 802-442-8138, or by speaking to their DCF case worker. Individuals or groups looking to donate gifts to the program can find the form online and send it to SpiritofSharing.Bennington@gmail.com, or can drop it off at DCF, which is located on the third floor of the State Office Building. A link to the form can be found in the online version of this story, at benningtonbanner.com, and will soon be up on the Catamount Rotary Club's website, portal.clubrunner.ca/2912.
When filling out the donation form, one can select how many children for whom they would like to purchase gifts, which are expected to be between $25-30. DCF will then match up donors with families in need. Children provide wish lists of one to three items in that price range, and DCF sends them to the donors with whom they have been connected, along with a code number, to ensure the anonymity of the receiving family. The donor then purchases and wraps the gifts, and drops them back off at DCF with the code number attached. Mook said that last year, several departments and businesses stepped up and donated gifts to multiple families. Two businesses, Hannaford and Plasan, were important partners with the program last year, helping purchase food certificates to include with the gifts.
Volunteers are also needed to deliver gifts on Dec. 17 and Dec. 23.
"Anne had been the spearhead of bringing Spirit of Sharing back to life," said Sausville.
"When you can make some child's Christmas mean so much, it does brighten your day," said Mook, "This community for years has continued to amaze us with how they step forward."
The deadline for submitting applications to get involved with the program is November 17. Sausville said this is an opportunity to make a big difference in a child's holiday for a relatively small amount of money. "They were just so appreciative and so thankful," she said.