Third-grader Jason Lugo proudly showed his mom Jennifer his narrative writing project: a story about the day she was robbed at gun point in the Hill. That happened five months ago.
On Tuesday, the family’s new Fair Haven community rallied around the Lugos and over half the families in the school with generous food baskets for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jennifer Velez Lugo came to Fair Haven School to hear her son read that story in Ms. Ferruci’s Room 125 Tuesday morning.
The appointment dovetailed with an opportunity to pick up a butterball turkey courtesy of C-Town. She also received canned goods, desserts, and even breakfast for that morning after Thanksgiving should she, Jason, or her other two sons, also students at the Fair Haven School, still be be hungry.
Nine other families received bounteous baskets of Thanksgiving fare that were organized by the Fair Haven Management Team, top Fair Haven cop Sgt. Anthony Zona and his officers, Rufina Durazzo and her colleagues at the Mary Wade Home, Start Community Bank, C-Town supervisor Marcos Paoulino, and Chabaso Bakery.
“Everything short of cooking it,” is how Mary Rosario, the school’s parent advocate and a substitute teacher, described the large baskets of bird, breadcrumbs, and everything else, in total weighing about 30 pounds.
While these ten families exchanged hugs and carted off their turkeys from the school’s conference room, a floor below, seventh and eighth-graders like Luis Rodriguez were organizing long line-ups of kidney beans in one row and the mandarin orange segments in another.
This was the staging area for baskets of food for another 250 families
That’s a lot of families in a the K-8 school that has a total of 721 kids, or 400 to 450 families, estimated Fair Haven School Principal Margaret-Mary Gethings.
She said this year’s need is the greatest she’s seen, with the number of families receiving food baskets spiking from 175 last year to 260 this year.
“We’ve had a lot of families losing jobs, and each of our 50 refugee families [is receiving a basket],” she said by way of explaining the demand.
Gethings said hard financial times as well as changing family dynamics explain the rising need in her school.
“To be able to afford normal groceries is expensive. Thanksgiving is a luxury. We have a lot of grandparents, aunts and uncles raising kids,” she said.
The massive food effort grew out of partnerships Gethings has cultivated with groups in New Haven and beyond.
Among major donors of the canned goods and other non-perishables were officers of the student government at Southern Connecticut State University, who distributed collection receptacles in offices, dorms, and the locker rooms of teams; kids at Amity High School; and Fair Haven School’s student government, whose members raised money on their “dress down” days to buy butter and eggs for 200.
There were also the players and families at Hamden Youth Hockey and the River Hawks, another public-spirited hockey club in Bridgeport whose members pitched in. (Full disclosure: Principal Gethings’ family is hockey obsessed).
As police officers and management team members gathered around, Gethings thanked the families for being such good parents and wished everyone a good holiday.
“I’m very thankful for the basket,” said Jennifer Lugo.
“And we’re very thankful to give it to you,” replied Mary Rosario.
Then Lugo went off to a meeting with another of her son’s teachers.