Lions Club gives 190 food baskets to those in need

By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Thu., Dec. 20, 2012
Stop and Shop store manager Jon Reardon (left) helps to get a pallet of baskets off a truck. Photos by Jason Harris.
Stop and Shop store manager Jon Reardon (left) helps to get a pallet of baskets off a truck. Photos by Jason Harris.

The Colchester Lions Club gave out nearly 200 holiday food baskets to people in need at Town Hall on Dec. 20. Lions Club member Leo Glembowski has chaired this event for 50 years. Back when it started, the Lions gave out two baskets, and that number has grown to 190 this year, he said.

“We found even back then at that time there were several needy families,” Glembowski said. “We just felt that they needed attention through the holidays, so we made the offer to them. It became a yearly project at Christmas time.”

The baskets are being prepared by Stop and Shop and Noel's in town, Glembowski said. Costing $50 apiece to put together, the baskets contained a turkey, bread, apple pie, fruits and vegetables.

Stop and Shop store manager Jon Reardon said this was the store’s fifth year being involved with the Lions Club’s food baskets. “This is probably our biggest store-sponsored event,” Reardon said. “We’re just trying to be a good community partner.”

Along with the food baskets, the Lions were giving out hundreds of scarves, hats and even stuffed animals, which were all donated, according to Lions Club member George Salpieto. They are doing whatever they can to make Christmas better, he said. The scarves and hats were hand-knitted by a local knitting group.

“This is our big project every year,” Salpieto said. “I remember the first time I worked this. It changed my Christmas that year. It really warms your heart.”

Lions Club President Marie Salpietro was happy to be able to be at this event this year. She is usually working, but was able to take vacation time to be here, she said. “You can’t replicate the joy of a little one at Christmas,” Salpietro said after talking to a mother and her young son, who wants a Spider-Man toy for Christmas.

Glembowski said that over 15 years ago, they use to go to each individual's home to drop off a basket. No matter what the weather was at the time, the baskets had to be delivered. “We had to go out with the baskets, come hell or high water,” Glembowski said.

Since they were spending so much time traveling to deliver baskets around town, he said he suggested a permanent location, which was Town Hall.

Lions Club member Jack McNichols said that the town’s social services gives them a list of people in need. This year they had to cut back because the club didn’t have any more money for the project. “What we don’t cover, social services will,” McNichols said.

McNichols said he has been involved with this project for about 25 years. The whole club of about 100 members gets involved in this project, he said. Thirty-five members help out during two shifts on the day of giving out the food baskets.

“I think it’s one of our better projects,” McNichols said. “Our goal is helping other people. It’s a great fundraiser. I enjoy it more than anything we do.”

Resident Jessica Cordova said this was her second year picking up a food basket, which she first heard about through the Head Start program. “We come just because it helps us out for the holidays,” Cordova said. “We appreciate it greatly.”

Glembowski is looking to hand over this project to McNichols, who he is entrusting to learn and do this project, he said. “I’m looking forward to completing this project this year,” Glembowski said. “I just turned 90 and I think it’s time that I give this project up.”

First Selectman Gregg Schuster said the Lions Club does so much for the town. “I’m extremely grateful that they’re able to put on this event and help Colchester’s most needy,” Schuster said about the Lions. “They’re a great group of people.”

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