The City of Bristol had a 62 percent voter turnout last month on Election Day. While I would like to extend congratulations to those who were elected and also to those who ran in the spirit of the two party system so voters had choices, the real winners were our at-risk populations.
Knowing that St. Vincent DePaul was short on funds in order to open their overflow shelter on extremely cold winter nights, and that we have one less soup kitchen offering services, the City of Bristol approached the United Way to partner on a Food Drive at polling places. Voters could also choose to make a cash donation, which many did.
I am happy to report that the “Stock Our Shelters” campaign was a huge success. Over $5,000 in cash was collected at the 9 polling places and thousands of food items donated. St. Vincent DePaul received $3,700 of those funds, and an additional $337 was distributed to the Salvation Army, The Agape House and Brian’s Angels for their safety net programs.
Thanks to an existing fundraising drive by the Rotary Club and Liberty Bank for the Meals for Neighbors (MFN) program at Zion Church, we were able to take the $337 for MFN and have the Rotary/Liberty pledge 25 cents for each dollar raised.
This leveraged an additional $85 toward their program.
On Election Day, non-perishable food items started accumulating early in the morning. Several runners began transporting the donated goods to the United Way conference room where additional volunteers began sorting.
By noon, we had to call in reinforcements to aid in the collection of the food items.
On behalf of the City Council, I would like to thank all of those who made this such a great success. Sarah Larson from the Parks Department and Lindsey Rivers from the Public Works Department were the brains behind the operation, along with our Registrars of Voters, Sharon Krawiecki and Kevin McCauley, who enthusiastically endorsed the initiative.
On Election Day, our volunteer effort was supported by various Girl Scout Troops who helped monitor the donation sites while they sold their cookies to voters; the West Bristol PTO and Love of Learning Inc. that volunteered at West Bristol School; Principal Dave Huber and the South Side School PTO, the BCHS Interact Club volunteers, members of the BEHS football team who we called in for some muscle, the United Way team, and Councilman Peter Kelley, all of whom made various pick-up runs in the afternoon.
Special thanks to our museum friends, the American Clock and Watch Museum, the Bristol Historical Society and the Imagine Nation Museum, that donated various receptacles for the cash donations.
The goal of this initiative - ensuring that no one was left out in the cold or hungry - was achieved in about two weeks with no budget and a 100 percent volunteer effort.
However, the value of these acts of kindness and generosity from all corners of Bristol are indeed priceless.
Ellen Zoppo-Sassu is the mayor of Bristol