A family of tire snowmen passing by Edgewood Circle encourages to throw their non-perishable items into a donation box for Bread for Life.
said Jennifer Jacovino Baptiste, who started running the show in 2018 and added a donation fund last year.
Using her expertise in recycling items for her organization and her struggling Ace of Space business, Baptiste increases the show every year by adding frames and decorations that it creates. This year it features eight snowmen gathered around a plastic campfire, with festive lights automatically lit each night to illuminate the display.
Snowmen are made from tires of cars and bicycles stacked on top of each other, with varying sizes creating the appearance of a snowman. Each year she repaints the snowman white and adds decorations such as old hats, scarves, and gloves. Her son Jayden keeps an eye on the tires and she’ll be cruising around town collecting them all year round.
After the pandemic reduced the amount of work she had to do with her business, Baptiste found herself in a difficult financial situation. Realizing that many in the city are going through the same experiences, she added a donation fund when she pitched her show last year. By the time she stopped the show in mid-January, she had collected about 800 pounds of non-perishable items, which she donated to the food pantry Bread for Life.
Baptiste believes that many residents are unaware that there are people who struggle to raise money to buy groceries in their neighbourhoods. Besides helping neighbors who may be suffering as she is, she hopes to reduce the stigma some feel when they need to rely on a pantry.
“The food is getting to the people in the local area. Other people might not think there’s a problem, you know I had a hard time last year when I wasn’t working.” “…It’s something that shouldn’t be a shame.”
Janet Mellon, director of community services in Southington, said neighborhood food drives are some of the most powerful ways food stores can collect non-perishable items for their customers. The ability to donate food through someone they know tends to encourage residents to collect a larger selection of food, allowing the pantry to stock items they don’t see come straight from the grocery store. It also makes residents more aware of the need in their neighbourhoods.
“Neighbourhood food trips are usually the best food delivery campaigns… they make people aware – some neighbors – how lucky we are that we don’t necessarily have to order and when they do, let’s give them a great variety,” Mellon said.
Although the food that Baptiste earns will go to Bread for Life, she also donates furniture and other miscellaneous items that her business clients gave her to Southington Community Services.
The holidays are a particularly important time for food trips, Mellon said, as residents face rising energy and heating costs in the colder months at the same time they try to buy gifts or host holiday meals for children and family members. Those who start their own food campaigns are an important part of their efforts to have a little extra food in the pantry over the holidays and their donations are more generous because client confidentiality means they don’t even meet the people they do meet. Re-help.
“People like Jennifer and these little neighborhood groups are the ones who are making a huge difference here and I don’t know if they realize,” Mellon said. “… they will never see the smile when people say ‘Do you have this?’ And I say, “Oh we are.”