Claribel Fernandez has been in New Haven for only a week but she and her son already feel welcome and at home.
That feeling of welcome grew Wednesday just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, thanks to the efforts of Fair Haven alders, police officers, firefighters and the neighborhood management team.
Fernandez is among the many who have had to evacuate their homes in Puerto Rico because of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Maria. She said she’s glad she landed in New Haven.
On Wednesday, she joined 11 other families at Fair Haven School on Grand Avenue to receive a turkey and the trimmings for a Thanksgiving meal and breakfast. There was more food in that basket for a week’s worth of meals and toys for her son.
“I feel so safe,” Fernandez said in Spanish that Fair Haven Alder Jose Crespo translated into English. “The help has been magnificent.”
For the ninth year, Fair Haveners teamed up to make sure that families in need have a happy Thanksgiving.
That means making sure families don’t have to worry about where their holiday meal will come from. Crespo said this year that effort took on a particular sense of urgency because Hurricane Maria evacuees left the island with only what they could carry. He said with winter coming, families need not only food but also winter coats, hats, and gloves.
Fair Haven District Manager Lt. David Zanelli said police officers and firefighters have been working to collect food and monetary donations to meet those needs. He shouted out former Fair Haven District Manager Lt. Herb Johnson, who has continued to assist with that work even though he now heads the police department’s investigative division.
That wasn’t the only place that the team spread holiday cheer this week, noted Fair Haven CMT Co-chair David Steinhardt. Thirty people, including schoolchildren, provided a Thanksgiving meal for seniors at the Atwater Senior Center.
Claribel Fernandez said that it means a lot to her that local organizations like Junta for Progressive Action and so many of her new neighbors have done so much to help her and her family. She has a seventh-grader at Fair Haven School, and he loves it here, she said.
“I feel so grateful,” she said.