'There's a need for food' this Thanksgiving in New Milford

The Woman's Club of Greater New Milford and the United Way of Western Connecticut will hold a food drive,

The Woman’s Club of Greater New Milford and the United Way of Western Connecticut will hold a food drive, “Operation Thanksgiving,” Nov. 7 near the bandstand on the Village Green. Above, Scout Nathan Brennen assists the group by checking expiration dates on donated goods during the 2018 event.

Deborah Rose / Hearst Connecticut Media

NEW MILFORD — The bandstand area on the Village Green will be the epicenter for Thanksgiving cheer on Nov. 7.

That’s when the Woman’s Club of Greater New Milford and the United Way of Western CT will again join forces for an “Operation Thanksgiving” food drive.

The annual event, formerly known as “Stuff the Gazebo,” will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be held in a drive-up format this year due to the COVID pandemic.

“There’s a need for food,” said Katy Francis, United Way’s community impact coordinator for Southern Litchfield County. “When (the United Way) did its COVID Emergency Fund ... the highest need was food, it ranked high above everything.”

Each year the two organizations provide a complete Thanksgiving meal to families in New Milford, coordinated through New Milford Social Services. Last year, approximately 250 meals were provided.

Woman’s Club member Priscilla Williams, who co-chairs the event with Adrienne Kern, said there is expected to be a 20 percent increase in the number of families helped this year due to COVID.

Francis highlighted the popular Easley Thanksgiving Day dinner, which is open to those seeking a Thanksgiving Day meal. The event, coordinated by the Easley family in memory of Dustin Easley, who died in a motor vehicle accident on Thanksgiving morning 2003, is canceled this year due to COVID.

As a result, Francis said she expects more families to be in need of a meal since they can’t attend the dinner.

The crossover on the Green will be closed to traffic except for those making donations. Donors are asked to wear masks. Woman’s Club members and volunteers will receive the donations from vehicles.

In particular, donations of nonperishable items are sought: boxed pie crusts, pie fillings, boxed mashed potatoes, canned sweet potatoes/yams, cranberry sauce, creamed soups, canned vegetables, stuffing and turkey gravy.

Donors are asked to check expiration dates before coming to the event.

Frozen turkeys will also be accepted and will be stored in freezers loaned to the organizations for the cause.

“We’ve had good support so far in the community,” said Williams, who has been a member for 15 years.

The co-chair said the club has participated in the Thanksgiving collection for as long as she has been a member, and for many years before that.

The food collected the day of “Operation Thanksgiving” will be loaded into a truck and driven, courtesy of UPS, to the site where it is stored until the day baskets are distributed.

The mayor’s office will accept donations at Roger Sherman Town Hall at 10 Main St. prior to the drive as well. Donors should go to the front door of town hall and call the mayor’s office at 860-355-6010. Someone will answer the door and receive the items.

Items can be dropped off at town hall Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Nov. 6.

Monetary donations will also be accepted and will be used towards the purchase of a turkey for each family.

The baskets will be handed out Nov. 23 at John Pettibone Community Center, with traffic assistance from the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus.

For a complete list of items needed or to donate virtually, visit https://tinyurl.com/y3ygnyk8.