PLYMOUTH – A pair of local youths have raised more than $1,000 for United Way of West Central Connecticut, selling vegetables at Bristol Blues games in Bristol and Music on the Green concerts in Plymouth.
Ten-year-old friends Luke Koser and Nico Florenciani can easily be spotted at community events, with the former dressed in a cucumber costume and the latter dressed as a chicken. Together, “Luke’s Cukes” and “Nico’s Nuggets” have made a big impact in assisting United Way of West Central Connecticut with purchasing school supplies for children in need.
Luke Koser is the son of Donna Koser, early childhood coordinator at West Central Connecticut. He first began selling cucumbers from the family garden last year as a fundraiser for United Way, raising $300 at the time.
This year, his friend Nico joined in. The two also received numerous donations of peaches, tomatoes and other produce to sell from members of the community. Since they started this spring, the two have raised $1,032, exceeding their $1,000 goal for the year. They have now set a new goal of collecting $1,500.
“I saw that United Way needed a lot of backpacks last year since they didn’t have as many donors,” Luke said. “I was surprised by how much we raised; I wasn’t sure we could do it until we reached $900. I feel great helping out a good cause. We’re going to keep going until we run out of vegetables.”
This isn’t Luke’s first time raising money for the community. Three or four years ago he helped to collect items for the local food pantry.
Nico Florenciani, the son of Cindi Florenciani of Rolling Video Games in Terryville, has contributed to the fundraiser by selling painted rocks, flowers and vegetables. He said it was a “fun” and “exciting” experience running the vegetable stands on the town green. He feels proud about what he and Luke achieved together.
“I never thought we’d get so much support,” he said. “It makes me feel like a good person to know that this money will help United Way, who will use it to help a lot of people.”
Nico dresses like a chicken during the booth because he became the owner of pet chickens last year. Since then, he has been doing programs for younger children at Terryville Public Library, teaching them facts about chickens and allowing them to pet the baby chicks.
Cindi Florenciani said the response the boys have received from the community has been “incredible.”
“People absolutely love the kids,” she said. “They go up to people, explain to them what United Way is about and what the money will be used for. They also write letters and do videos on Facebook to thank donors.”
Nico and Luke also got the chance to visit Mayor David Merchant in his office this month. Merchant acknowledged their efforts on the Facebook page for the mayor’s office on Aug. 18.
“I was paid a visit this week by two young entrepreneurs,” he wrote. “They did a great job marketing their products as well as a great job as salesmen. They are out trying to raise money not for themselves, but for the United Way of West Central Connecticut. It was so refreshing to see these boys out volunteering their time to help others. They were called ‘Luke’s Cukes’ and ‘Nico’s Nuggets,’ so if you see them around town your donations will be welcome to help a great cause. I was able to secure some great vegetables and some homemade jelly. Good luck boys and keep up the good work.”
Luke and Nico will have a booth at the upcoming Plymouth 225th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held Oct. 16 from noon to 4 p.m.
People can also send donations to United Way of West Central Connecticut 440 North Main Street, Suite D, Bristol, CT 06010 and put “Luke’s Cukes” in the memo box.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.