Gala ben­e­fits re­gional food bank

The Day - Sound & Country - - - By KA­T­RINA T. GATH­ERS

PPeo­ple of­ten look for­ward to the hol­i­days so they can break from their di­ets and gorge on fill­ing soups, del­i­cately carved meats and scrump­tious desserts. But for many, pre­par­ing the an­nual Christ­mas meal is dif­fi­cult when there isn’t much food to put on the ta­ble. To help area res­i­dents se­cure all the fix­ings for a hol­i­day feast, a dress-toim­press ben­e­fit is be­ing hosted later this month in down­town New Lon­don, with all the pro­ceeds go­ing to The Gemma E. Mo­ran Unit­edWay La­bor Food Cen­ter. Sec­ond Night is an evening of danc­ing, mu­sic and the­ater set to a “Roar­ing Twen­ties” theme. Wine and hors d’oeu­vres are in­cluded in the ticket price, which is be­ing hosted in the his­toric Crocker House Ball­room.

Along with view­ing art dis­plays, at­ten­dees can lis­ten to jazz mu­sic from a lo­cal band be­tween each of three one-act plays. Each play is based on the Roar­ing Twen­ties theme. This is the sec­ond year the ben­e­fit has been held. “We just threw to­gether some peo­ple and said ‘Let’s come up with an event,’” says Bar­bara Neff, one of the pro­gram’s or­ga­niz­ers. “There’s noth­ing go­ing on down­town in Novem­ber right af­ter Thanks­giv­ing. Every­one thinks of the food bank for Thanks­giv­ing to do­nate food, but right af­ter that the food banks get empty and then we have Christ­mas.”

So a small group de­cided to or­ga­nize a Fri­day night event that would not only be fun, but one that fits in with the benef­i­cent theme of the sea­son.

There are 260,000 res­i­dents in New Lon­don County and, ac­cord­ing to Neff, 14,000 of those are helped monthly through 93 pro­grams op­er­at­ing in the re­gion. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of the pro­grams pick up sup­plies from the food cen­ter and dis­trib­utes them to needy in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies.

The per month fig­ure, says Neff, is up 10,000 to 11,000 peo­ple from the pre­vi­ous year.

The food cen­ter now dis­trib­utes roughly 1.5 mil­lion pounds of food a year. Lo­cated on Broad Street, it is the third largest food bank in the state.

In 2008, a hand­ful of area res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers got to­gether to host a fash­ion show at the Har­ris Place. The same group planned this month’s ben­e­fit. And be­cause it’s the sec­ond year the group has worked to­gether, they de­cided to use the name “2nd Night.” In its first year, more than 100 peo­ple at­tended the ben­e­fit. “We don’t have a goal, but we would like to raise more than last year,” says Neff. “Any lit­tle bit helps and the pro­ceeds go right to them.”

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