Looking back at 2013, part 3
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Ellington/Tolland - posted Mon., Dec. 30, 2013
Summer was full of celebrations, including the 'July in the Sky' and National Night Out events in Vernon.
Many local families also celebrated the arrival of friends, old and new, from the Fresh Air Fund, who arrived in the area on two separate dates. On July 8, the Kent family from Ellington greeted Diamond, 13, back for the second year. “It's about giving back to the community and surrounding communities,” said Shannon Kent, mother of Olivia, 12, and Liam, 9. “I'm a firm believer in spreading love, and we just love Diamond. We got lucky with her.”
While there are 143,000 children in the state of Connecticut who receive free or reduced-price lunches, only about 25 percent of them were utilizing the free lunch programs during the summer. But, the Connecticut No Kid Hungry campaign helped more local children receive lunches in Vernon by helping to provide other activites, such as sports and crafts, as well as other resources and referalls that families may need.
“Our history is that if you are just serving lunches without some other activity, you get less participation,” said Alan Slobodien, director of Vernon Youth Services.
“We spend some time trying to recruit volunteers and share best practices with sponsors to find that extra thing that will draw in kids,” said Dawn Crayco of End Hunger CT! “If we include activities in these sites, the kids are going to be more active and engaged.”
The Vernon Bookmobile made the lunch sites part of its route, as well as many of Vernon's summer camp programs, as part of the expansion of the program that promotes summer reading. “We feel like we're maxing out at those locations,” Bookmobile coordinator Ann Scharin said. “We're glad to be at the parks and lunch locations. That's a very important component. When we pull up at Talcott Park [for example], kids line up on the hill there. It's one of our best locations.”
A prestigious national art show held its annual event at the Vernon Arts Center in August. The Academic Artists Association's 63rd annual exhibit took place at the center, and featured two Vernon artists – Barbara Groff and Aniko Enderle.
“It's wonderful to have it here,” Groff said. “I've heard nothing but positive comments. It's a wonderful venue, and I hope we continue to have the exhibit here.”
Also impressive were some local athletes. The Tolland Little League Juniors cruised through their division and state tournament to become state champions on July 28, after an 8-0 rout of Canton/Granby at Old Tavern Field in Orange. Tolland had swept the district tournament, 3-0, and improved to 4-0 in the state tournament, in which they beat all previous teams via the mercy rule. Tolland Juniors also won the state title in 2012, and five of the players remained from that squad.
Coach Scott Curtis said his team got to the title game with a “total team effort,” and always put in hard work, regardless of the situation.
“They battle all the way to the last out,” Curtis said. “These guys had that feeling that they could do well. That means good stuff for Tolland baseball in the future.”
“There should be no such thing as a homeless veteran,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the transformation of One Ellington Avenue in Rockville into the new Chrysalis Center, which now houses several veterans who were recently homeless. The 10 veterans housed there will pay a rent based on their income, according to Project Manager Abbie Kelly, but there is a bit of a screening process for the program, designed to be a temporary situation to help veterans get back on their feet.
“We're looking for veterans who kind of fell on bad times, and need some safe, stable housing,” Kelly said. “Every study shows that you need support. You can't just throw someone in housing. You need support services. It's a hand-up, not a handout.”