Gloves, socks, handwarmers in demand at Torrington homeless giveaway

2021-12-31 10:46:19 By : Ms. Linda Lin

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. State Rep. Michelle Cook, left, hands out donated gift cards to a couple.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. From left are state Rep. Michelle Cook, executive director Karen Thomas and board member Lisa Gosselin.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. From left are board president Danny Hartnett and City Treasurer Dan Farley.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Shannon, a volunteer, helps an Army veteran named Floyd choose some prepared meals.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Pictured are food bank volunteers Susan and Jim Thebarge.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Floyd, an Army veteran, said he recently secured his own apartment after a two-year wait.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Volunteer Shannon and her son Trevor worked a table with free coffee, snacks and meals.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Jim, who says he is staying at the overflow shelter on Forest Court, enjoys his coffee.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Executive director Karen Thomas, second from left, talks with a homeless man at the event.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Volunteer Susan Thebarge, left, helps a woman choose a coat.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. Volunteer Susan Thebarge, center, with her husband Jim, left, and Pam Tino, right, helped people choose from a collection of donated clothing.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington.

Friendly Hands Food Bank held a Homeless Care Connection event Thursday at the Elks Club on Litchfield Street in Torrington. State Rep. Michelle Cook, right, handed out donated Cumberland Farms and Big Y gift cards.

TORRINGTON — A small crowd was waiting in the rain by 10 a.m. Thursday near the Elks Club on Litchfield Street for Homeless Care Connection day, offered by Friendly Hands Food Bank.

Volunteers, food bank staff and board members and Friendly Hands Food Bank Executive Director Karen Thomas were joined by state Rep. Michelle Cook and City Treasurer Dan Farley. The group set up two tents on the club steps and handed out clothing, snacks, hot coffee and cocoa, handwarmers and blankets to whoever showed up.

“I’m at the overflow shelter,” said a man named James, as he sipped a cup of coffee, explaining his knees and feet hurt all the time from work-related injuries. “I’ve been up here about a month. I really want to get back to Derby, though.”

Another man, Tom, arrived on his bicycle and filled a small tote bag with provisions.

“I found some things I needed,” he said. “Gloves, some socks, and handwarmers. I think it’s wonderful that the food bank is doing this. It’s very nice of them.”

Floyd, a U.S. Army veteran who said he just got his own apartment after two years, helped himself to handwarmers and coffee.

“I have what I need now, but I wanted to see what was going on,” he said. “It’s good to see people being helped.”

Another couple was looking through the collection of donated coats, with help from volunteers Jim and Susan Thebarge.

“People helping in the community are as good as the community itself,” Jim Thebarge said. “When you volunteer for things like this, you realize how blessed you are.”

Friendly Hands board President Danny Hartnett said he was happy with the turnout.

“I’m pleased that it’s going so well,” Hartnett said. “People were waiting for us. We were worried about getting the word out, but I think it’s worked out.

“Everyone we asked to help with this really reached out,” he said. “I hope it sheds a little light on this problem. We can’t solve homelessness, but we can make a difference. We can’t just sit idly by and ignore it. We have the things they need. It breaks your heart, but I’m glad we can help.”

Thomas said at least 25 new clients who are homeless have been visiting the food bank on King Street over the last six weeks. Many told her they were sleeping outside or in their cars. Earlier this week, she contacted members of the Friendly Hands board and local service clubs.

“I told them, ‘We have to do something to help’ and so we came up with this idea, the Homeless Care Connection,” she said.

Friendly Hands, the Elks Lodge, Torrington Women’s Club and the Be Ready Project sponsored the day together, Thomas said.

Lisa Gosselin, another member of the food bank board, came to help. As she watched Cook hand out donated gift cards for Cumberland Farms and Big Y, Gosselin said homelessness can’t be ignored.

“I support anything we can do,” she said. “I’m not hapy to hear people are outside and not getting fed. Things like this need to be done. In this day and age, people should not be homeless.”

Friendly Hands Food Bank serves hundreds of families in and around Torrington, providing them with weekly supplies of groceries. Thomas said many people are struggling financially, and simply don’t have enough money to pay their bills and support their families.

Learn more about the food bank at fhfb.org.

Emily M. Olson is the community editor for the Torrington Register Citizen, the New Haven Register and the Middletown Press.

She is a 1997 graduate of Western Connecticut State University with a degree in English and a minor in journalism.

She started her career at the Patent Trader newspaper in Westchester County, NY in 1998. After a brief period as a reporter with the Register Citizen in Torrington in 1999, she joined the former Housatonic Publications group as a reporter. She was managing editor of the former Litchfield Enquirer and helped run the weekly newspapers at Housatonic and the Litchfield County Times. She returned to the Register Citizen in 2009.