Five-year-old Bill Kaschube, of New Milford, had a determined look on his face recently when he approached the Wilkinson/Fratino families bake sale fundraiser at Stop & Shop in New Milford.

Bill had come on a mission -- to donate $24 in small bills and change he had taken from his piggy bank.

His parents, Maura and Mark Kaschube, had taught by example that when neighbors are in need, you lend a hand.

"The explosion hit the community really hard," Maura Kaschube said Friday. "We made a point of taking Bill to all the lemonade stands that kids had set up to raise money for the families."

"We'd been talking to him about the importance of saving money for when you need it. After seeing my husband and I donate money and our time toward helping these families, Bill wanted to do this," she said.

The Sept. 8 bake sale was organized by Rhonda Scribner-Cable and her daughter, Jennifer Silvernail, and friend Robin McKenna-Seidman. At least 28 bakers provided sale items.

They raised more than $2,000 and divided it between the two families, Ms. Scribner-Cable said.

And Bill?

"He was really shy," she said. "He didn't say a word. He just stood there with that Baggie in his hands ... he was so adorable."

Bill is one of likely thousands of Greater New Milford-area residents who have responded to the needs of homeowner John Wilkinson and his family, and 9-year-old Nicky Fratino.

The two of them were seriously injured when the Wilkinson home in Sunny Valley was destroyed Aug. 29 by a propane explosion. Nicky's father, Anthony Fratino III, was killed in the blast.

Mr. Wilkinson is now at Bethel Rehabilitation Center for an expected six-week stay.

Nicky was discharged from Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston earlier this week. His family has not revealed where he is now.

In the meantime, fundraisers such as the bake sale and a benefit hosted Saturday by Phys-Ed have continued to lend support to the two families.

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322