MONROE, CT — A Warm Winter Gathering was an evening of hors d’oeuvres, drinks, sweets and games, as those in attendance mingled in a large room in the lower level of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate: Gaetano Marra Homes, 588 Monroe Turnpike, Wednesday.
The event gave Project Warmth an infusion of over $10,000 in donations, helping town families in need to heat their homes this season. The fundraiser was sponsored by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
“We started thinking about this in May, because the prices of oil were spiking so high,” said Ray Giovanni, president of the chamber. “Heating oil was six-dollars-a-gallon by August and you need 200 gallons to top off your tank.”
Giovanni said there is no way individuals and families, who depend on the Monroe Food Pantry, could have afforded the $1,200 cost.
Monroe’s Community and Social Services Department helps residents in need to apply for financial aid to heat their homes and, when those options are spent, Project Warmth, a town fund, bridges the gap.
Giovanni worked with a group of former Project Warmth volunteers, who are passionate about the cause, to organize A Warm Winter Gathering.
Kim Cassia, the town’s director of Community and Social Services, thanked the chamber, and “all of the wonderful people” who made the evening possible, from the bottom of her heart for helping town residents.
“Gaetano was kind enough to let them use this space,” Cassia said of the main room.
Gaetano Marra, who is a member of the Monroe Chamber’s board, also allowed use of a large game room in his building.
Giovanni thanked Marra and his wife, Kim, for use of the facility, as well as the volunteers who decorated it for the evening.
Bridging the gap
Cassia’s department helps residents apply for assistance from the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and Operation Fuel. When aid from those programs is exhausted, money is used from the town’s Project Warmth fund.
While speaking at Wednesday’s event, Cassia said one of the things people can overlook is that no heat often means no hot water either.
She said the town helped 41 people last year, spending over $12,000 in assistance. She said the smallest donation was $78 for a woman’s electric bill, moving her to tears.
When oil prices rose, Cassia said the most the town spent for someone’s home was around $650.
She said the town tries to negotiate with fuel companies for the dealer’s price, to stretch the money from the Project Warmth fund, adding that Sippin Energy Products in Monroe has been great, as well as some other companies.
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce made a $1,000 donation and Giovanni said Jim Weinberg, a member, paid for all of the food and beverages so every dollar raised at A Warm Winter Gathering would go to the cause.
The event featured hot food prepared by Monroe Social with chicken sliders, mozzarella sticks, crispy chicken dumplings and fried balls filled with chicken cordon bleu. The spread also included cookies and pastries.
Among the corporate sponsors, Giovanni thanked David Sippin, who was in attendance, and his family for Sippin Energy Products’ $1,000 donation Wednesday evening and for their commitment to give another $1,000 in October.
Jan Snyder, vice president of the chamber, announced that a bigger fundraiser will be held in October at a time and place to be announced. The hope is it will become an annual event to replenish the Project Warmth fund before every winter.
On Wednesday evening, Shannon Reilly presented a $1,000 check on behalf of Bearingstar Insurance.
Wendy Grasso, a representative of Spadaccino and Leo P. Gallagher & Son Community Funeral Home, attended the event.
Spadaccino made a $500 donation. The funeral home raised money by selling cocoa bombs curbside. When a bomb is dropped into hot water or milk it creates hot chocolate with marshmallows.
Beth Stoller, who represents Power Network, attended Wednesday’s event. Power Network, a subcommittee of the chamber, made a $500 donation to the cause.
Clarkson Plateau was another generous sponsor.
Guests at A Warm Winter Gathering were encouraged to make a minimum donation of $23 for 2023, and raffles were held for three floral arrangements from Hansen’s Flower Shop, and for books and bottles of wine from 574 Wines.
Special recognition was given to Cassia, Monroe Chamber of Commerce board members, Monroe Economic Development Commission members Lawren Hubal and Rick Smith, and Vida Stone.
To donate to Project Warmth, cash or checks can be brought to Kim Cassia at the Monroe Senior Center, 235 Cutlers Farm Road. Checks should be made payable to the Town of Monroe with Project Warmth written in the memo line. Cassia said thank you letters will be sent to all those who make donations.