The residents of the town of New Milford are united during this time of uncertainty. Charitable efforts are abound. Residents are making masks (see stories, Pages S3 and S10) and donating funds to causes that support the purchase of gear or meals for first responders. "I'm so proud to be part of this," said Joe Quaranta of New Milford, who is the driving force behind the Mission It's Possible and the Helping Hands for Heroes efforts in town. "There's a monumental amount of love and strength" in the community, he said. Through Helping Hands, Quaranta recently secured 16,000 pounds of food for the town, which was delivered last Friday. An trailer from AutoTechnic in town and several New Milford Police Department vans delivered the food to John Pettibone Community Center. Last Friday's food - all quality products that can be turned into meals for families - will benefit the town's food bank through the Social Services Department, the Community Culinary School of Northwest Connecticut and Camella's Cupboard. Thirty to 50 pounds of deli meat were also delivered and taken to Maggie Colangelo of 9 Main in New Preston, who made sandwiches that were then taken to Camella's Cupboard. The culinary school is working with the senior center to provide meals to the town's elder residents. In addition, Helping Hands, in collaboration with Dino Kolitsas, owner of New Milford Pizza Station and Greca Mediterranean Kitchen + Bar, provided 300 meals for the day and evening staff at New Milford Hospital Monday. "They have been wonderful," Angie Chastain of Camella's Cupboard said of Helping Hands. "They provided us with yogurt, dairy items, ham that was turned into sandwiches, 50 boxes of chips for lunch bags." "They have been phenomenal and so accommodating," Chastain said. Camella's Cupboard provides to children a bag with seven breakfasts, lunch and snack items, and includes fruit, vegetable and dairy products. In addition, families in need is given produce, meat and other extras, such as soap and fabric masks. Chastain said the organization serves about 350 each week. Quaranta said he and his family went on "alert" when it became clear the town's emergency management departments would be in need of gear during the pandemic. To help, Quaranta spent the past few months reaching out to numerous undisclosed resources and connections "to secure sizable amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE)." Donations have been made to first responders in town, including the police and fire departments, the ambulance, New Milford VNA & Hospice. Helping Hands recently supplied New Milford Ambulance with 100 isolation suits and reusable P100 breathing apparatuses. In addition, neighboring towns such as Roxbury, Southbury and Danbury also received donations of PPE. The charity is also working with the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center in Waterbury. "Helping Hands for Heroes has been great to us," said Donna Hespe, persident of New Milford Community Ambulance. "Nobody was prepared to have the PPE required that is needed for this virus. It was gone before we could get our hands on it." "With the perseverance of Joe and his family, they were able to get some Tyvek suits, masks, boot covers, respirators and filters, gloves and even got us some meals for the crews," she said. "They have been a tremendous support and we are very thankful for all of their help," she said. Quaranta said Helping Hands has had such a positive response, it will soon work with other institutions in the state. "We're blessed to have such an amazing response in our community, but we're also receiving donations from outside our community," he said. The sale of Helping Hands merchandise - including shirts, stickers, yard signs hats and more - online at www.helpinghandsforheros.com is tracked, along with donations. Locally raised funds are used for the town. Funds that come in from outside the community will be used to help organizations elsewhere in the state, he said. The website also features a sponsor a meal program. Individuals can sponsor, through a participating local restaurant, a meal for a local hero. As of press time, Greca Mediterranean Kitchen + Bar, Dagwoods, JoJo's Deli and Cobblestone's American Grille are participating. For more information about Helping Hands, visit helpinghandsforheros.com or visit them on Facebook. For more information about Camella's Cupboard, visit www.camellascupboard.com. Donations can be dropped off at the side door of town hall and at the Catherine E. Lillis Administration Building on East Street Fridays from noon to 4 p.m.