Terry Creighton hands a box of unwrapped toys to Robert Shopey, III of the Torrington Fire Department outside Wall Street the week before Christmas. The toys were distributed to families served by FISH, a Torrington-area nonprofit.
Lots of Helping Hands Make Christmas Brighter for Community’s Neediest
The annual Christmas toy drive has been going strong at O&G for decades. Every December a mountain of toys and other gifts for kids grows in the lobby at the Main Office. It’s the fruit of two big, coordinated group efforts based in compassion, and they never fail.
In the first, unwrapped gifts are collected under the banner of the Torrington Fire Department’s Christmas for Children program. The 2014 beneficiary was FISH, an agency that reaches out to those in economic crisis. In the other effort, O&G works directly with TYSB (Torrington Area Youth Services Bureau) whose focus is at-risk youth and their families or foster caregivers.
“Christmas is a very hard time,” says Robin King who, for the past 20 years, has served as FISH’s Office/Program/Facilities Manager. “You see the kids and you want to do so, so much. These gifts are a real blessing.”
Lieutenant Mark Garrison of the Torrington Fire Department has worked with O&G on the Christmas for Children drive since 2000. He arrives with an engine and TAC truck to round the gifts up. “O&G is one of the biggest influences on the drive and our biggest contributor.” He speaks highly of O&G retiree Shirley Durante who comes back to help with various community efforts. “I’ve gotten calls from the mayor’s office asking, ‘This family has this number of kids and the parents are both out of work, can you help?’ and I’ll just call Shirley. She and other ladies go out and buy exactly what these families need. Those families are overwhelmed with the caring and support.”
Tom Donaldson, TYSB’s Director, has watched the gift drive grow since its inception 27 years ago. “Lots of our kids come thru DCF or DSS. This past Christmas we had about 900 names of kids who wouldn’t be getting presents. If it wasn’t for companies like O&G – who took close to 150 names to buy gifts for – we just plain couldn’t do this.”
Payroll Manager Ida Mussen’s son, Nick, is a general handyman at O&G between semesters studying criminal justice. He helped load a box truck with gifts and deliver them to TYSB. When the delivery was finished, Mussen remembers thinking, “I was proud I could represent the company. I walked away feeling I definitely want to keep helping people in the future.”
Both of the drives are employee-driven. Benefits Manager Sharon Okraska oversees the Fire Department drive; Building Division Contract Administrator Lynn Robotham oversees the TYSB drive. Says Okraska, “If it wasn’t for the people participating in the soup-and-sandwich luncheons that raise money so we can buy gifts for FISH, or the people bringing in toys for TYSB, this wouldn’t happen. How many children wouldn’t get anything at Christmas? The people are really generous here.”
So thank you to the Main Office staff, officers, jobsite personnel, Masonry Division employees, South Main employees, drivers and everyone who either donated money or purchased and wrapped gifts. At the end of the day, it’s you who make this kind of joyful corporate giving possible.
Christmas presents for some 150 children served by Torrington Area Youth Service Bureau were donated and wrapped by O&G employees. Making the delivery at TYSB are (from left) Lenny Byram, Nick Mussen and Lynn Robotham of O&G, Melissa Burton and Director Tom Donaldson from TYSB, and O&G’s Mark Zavatkay.