One thing David Engelson learned in his years as an educator in the Vernon public school system is to never stop learning.
And this week, in what he says is his most critical as the CEO of the Hockanum Valley Community Council, he is learning that people care.
Donations have been streaming in after his declaration of an "emergency" situation for the 1,600 families he serves in the region for Thanksgiving and Christmas at the HVCC food pantry.
Area business representatives showed up on Wednesday with food and money.
On Thursday, Patch editors from Ellington and Somers, Tolland and Vernon went shopping for the families they are sponsoring.
Vernon Girl Scout Troop 10139 also sponsored a family - and even threw a few extra items in the bags.
On Friday, Vernon police are organizing their end of the food drive.
The Mayor's Challenge is bringing in more than 3,000 food items.
The emergency holiday food drive is on tap for this weekend, beginning Friday.
The HVCC office at 29 Naek Rd. will be open at 9 a.m. all three days and drop-offs can be made until 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. on Sunday and 6 p.m. on Monday.
Both Vernon Stop & Shop locations will have drop-off stations set up Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Area resident Steve Linton has again borrowed a truck trailer and will have it parked at 428 Hartford Turnpike from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in an attempt to fill it with food. He has filled many a truck for HVCC before.
"The response has been overwhelming so far," Engelson said.
That was on Wednesday. On Thursday, he said the same thing, then paused, started to get emotional and added, "We have to keep going."
Here is what family sponsorship entails:
Family of three to four:
• A 20- to 22-pound turkey.
• A large box of mashed potatoes or 5 pounds of fresh potatoes.
• A large box of stuffing.
• Two large cans of turkey gravy.
• Two cans of yams or sweet potatoes.
• A can of cranberry sauce.
• Two large cans of fruit.
• Two large cans of vegetables.
• A box of cake, cookies or brownie mix.
• A can of frosting if cake mix is donated.
• A package of dinner roles.
• Breakfast bread or muffin mix.
A bonus would be pancake mix and syrup for breakfast, Engelson said.
Engelson said HVCC has many single clients, most of the seniors.
He said the suggested donation for a single person or small family is a small turkey or roasting chicken or chicken or turkey breast and one can or box of each item listed above.
Engelson said the pantry is also in need of peanut butter and will always accept a gift card.
Engelson says he has a need to feed 725 families for Thanksgiving and 850 families for Christmas.
To inquire about making a donation, call 860-872-7727.