The town was so flooded with gifts of goodwill from across the nation and world following the December 14 Sandy Hook School shootings tragedy, that it accumulated a massive inventory of gifts, far exceeding the needs of the people most directly affected by the incident.
To distribute those thousands upon thousands of gifts, many of them toys, the town conducted a Community Giveaway event during a six-hour period on Sunday, February 24, at the Reed Intermediate School. Several thousand people attended.
From noon to 3 pm, Sandy Hook School students and their families, as well as that school’s staffers, browsed through the gifts and took the ones they wanted.
From 3 to 6 pm, the event broadened its scope to allow other Newtown families to browse and select gifts.
Participants’ proof of affiliation with Sandy Hook School or their proof of Newtown residency were checked, respectively, by the event’s staff members to ensure that the thousands of gifts went to those people deemed eligible to receive them.
Participants walked along scores of tables that were set up in the school gymnasium displaying the thousands of gifts available.
The most typical items available were a range of toys for young children, including a wealth of teddy bears, among other stuffed animals. School supplies also were abundant, as were children’s books, and arts and crafts supplies.
Ann Benore, who is a case manager/administrative assistant for the town’s social services department, coordinated the giveaway project for the town.
The project went well, she said, noting that by the end of the event there were only about eight large cardboard boxes of gifts left in the gym.
Typically, each child attending the event received between three and six items, she said.
From noon to 3 pm, when the students of Sandy Hook School and their families, as well as school staff members, browsed through the aisles of gifts, the mood was subdued, she said.
Later, when the event was opened to other town residents, the mood became livelier, Ms Benore said.
At the giveaway, entertainers Danny Watson and Adam Rhodes performed, as did the band known as The Energy.
Representatives of the Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard were at the school grounds during the early portion of the event.
Of many gifts that are still being held in a warehouse on Simm Lane, Ms Benore said, “We are hoping to disperse everything…by April 1.” The town is processing requests for the gifts from various organizations, she said.
Town Assessor Chris Kelsey has been managing the inventory of donated items at the warehouse.
Mr Kelsey said the giveaway event went well, placing the items in the hands of those people eligible to receive them. Like Ms Benore, he said he hopes that all remaining items are distributed by April 1.
Mr Kelsey noted that the town received approximately 63,000 teddy bears as gifts, of which about 30,000 bears remain in the warehouse.
Communications made via social media on the Internet apparently stimulated the flood of teddy bears being sent to Newtown, he said.
Some of the remaining gifts are planned for distribution to the Lakota Tribe of the Great Plains, an orphanage in India, the state Department of Children and Families, and the Head Start Program for low-income children and their families, among other groups.