Category Archives: Hands On Hartford

Meaningful Mission Work – Teen Edition

What do you get when you combine 12 high school students with a voracious appetite for service? The answer is a week of meaningful mission work and service learning throughout the Hartford community. The youth group of the First Congregational Church of Vernon spent a summer week during the month of July engaging in an array of service – no job was too big or small. Hands On Hartford coordinated projects for 3 of their 5 days of service and placed the youth at Peter’s Retreat, Community Meals and at our community partner Salvation Army Marshall House.

On the morning of July 24th, the 12 youth and their chaperones spent the day accomplishing myriad projects at our soup kitchen. They deep cleaned tables & chairs, the kitchen, and prep room. They brought prizes and orchestrated a game of Bingo for our clients. The team tackled organizing the canned food in the prep room – which was desperately in need of an overhaul. They also brought all of the fixings and prepared ice-cream sundaes and salad to complement the meal.

During the reflection, led by volunteer coordinator Emily Kaas, Ryan shared that his favorite part of the day was “seeing everyone get so excited for the meal. It was great knowing that we had a hand in making that happen.” Many of the youth concurred that the experience humbled them and made them more appreciative of their own home, family and life situation.

The group arrived with white paint and sleeves rolled up to paint resident’s doors on the afternoon of July 25th at Peter’s Retreat. They moved expeditiously and within a couple of hours had all of the doors on the first floor painted. They were even able to spend some quality time interacting with the residents; a significant portion of their reflection centered on HIV/AIDS education and their perceptions about the disease.

The team wrapped up their week of service at Marshall House. They spent the day painting the future employment center a soothing blue hue. The room which is now barren, will be set-up with computers to allow residents to work on their resumes and apply for jobs. The room will play a pivotal role in allowing the residents to get back on their feet. They painted the walls, doors and trim and left the space transformed and inviting.

They also assisted with miscellaneous projects such as washing windows and moving furniture. At the end of this project, they concluded with a reflection that consisted of writing inspirational cards to residents and talked about their overall sentiments of Hartford both pre and post the mission work. The youth seemed to have a better impression of the city as a result of spending time there. They also gained a deeper understanding of those who live in the city in particular those who are homeless or living with HIV/AIDS.

We truly appreciate having had the opportunity to work with such a fine group of youth who value service. Thanks for your time, talent, materials/supplies, open-mind and willingness to serve those in need First Congregational Church of Vernon.

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Looking for an Inspirational Story? This One is a Slam Dunk!

Basketballs, basketballs, and more basketballs – oh my! When Randy  Weinstock, father of Evan, contacted Hands On Hartford back in March we knew great things were in store for a Hartford-based elementary school. Randy sought our consultation on ways that Evan could give back to the Hartford community for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.

Evan, an avid fan of basketball, was interested in connecting his love of basketball with his wish to make a difference. Several ideas were vetted and the selection was narrowed down to donating much needed basketball equipment to Fred D. Wish Elementary School. Evan’s parents wanted to ensure that Evan took full responsibility for the entire process. Moreover, Evan’s parent’s did not want to ask other parents (many of whom celebrate Bar Mitzvah’s regularly) to make yet another contribution. So how would Evan raise the money needed to purchase the items for Wish? By holding a Shoot-a-Thon.

Evan asked family and friends to support his effort. On Friday, May 11th, 56 kids participated in the one hour Shoot-A-Thon held at Evan’s school, King Philip Middle School. Each basket, there were a total of 6, had approximately 7 eager shooters, who were each given 1 minute to make as many baskets as possible. Different points were assigned based on where the shooter connected with the basket. As the points racked up, the thermometer, drawn on a poster board, peaked. The goal was to make 1,000 shots in 1 hour. When the kids reached 990 points, Evan ceremoniously shot the last 10 points. The fun-filled event was a huge success. Evan raised over $1,000. With that, he was able to purchase basketballs, pinnies and an electronic scoreboard. With the monies remaining, the Weinstocks were able to make a $250 cash donation to the school. On May 23rd, the Weinstocks delivered their donation to the school. This project was meaningful and impactful because Evan had an opportunity to visit Wish, which is merely 10 miles away from King Philip, beforehand to see the material differences and needs of the school.

According to Evan, “The best part was dropping off the equipment and seeing their faces. They were so excited! I would love to help kids at the Wish School again. They seem polite and really nice, and I’m glad they have a great school. I really liked making it even better.”

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The Artistic Touch of TELOS at the Marshall House

Although the weather was dismal and uncooperative – the work that took place inside of Hartford-based Salvation Army Marshall House was transformational. On Saturday, June 2nd, 25 students and leaders of Ellington Congregational Church’s high school mission group, TELOS, embarked on a major initiative to make the Marshall House, a family shelter, more inviting and less institutional.

The youth group, who spent their entire Saturday (9am-4pm) beautifying the facility, were divided into two groups. Half of the team painted the dining room and the other, the very lengthy hallway. All bulletin boards were pulled down so that the students could properly paint the walls that were once cream colored. They scrubbed the walls and applied two fresh coats of a subtle lemon – which turned out to be very invigorating and uplifting. While the paint was being applied in the hallway, the other half of the team painted the dining room using three different colors. The doors were painted brown, the upper portion of the walls a caramel color, and the paneling which occupies the bottom portion of the wall was painted white. It was truly a huge undertaking that initially appeared to be a walk in the park.

After lunch, the hallway team returned ready to create murals. Because Hands On Hartford staff encountered problems with the projector (intended to project the images on the walls) the youth group had to draw the images free hand – which is a piece of cake when you’ve got an arsenal of talented artistic youth! The team drew three impressive and massive floor to ceiling murals that had a tree motif. The muralists were so engaged with their work that when it was time to wrap up, they missed reflection and almost missed their bus. That’s how dedicated this group of youth was to completing the task presented to them. At the close of the day, we concluded with a reflection activity that included writing inspirational note cards to the residents of the shelter and delivering them.

By the conclusion of the project, the sun came out and the light from the sun paled in comparison to the warmth that shone through the beautiful work completed inside. Thanks to Generation On for supplying wristbands, that served as mementos, for the occasion. And special thanks to TELOS, an amazing group of diligent students with incredible stick-to-itiveness, for providing nearly 180 volunteer hours to Marshall House!

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Camp Isola Bella

Isola Bella tower, almost 100 years old!

 Ever wonder how staff and service members from Hands On Hartford spend their weekends? Volunteering, of course!

On Saturday, May 12th, HOH staff, Americorps members, and Jesuit Volunteers had the opportunity to help prepare American School for the Deaf’s (ASD) Camp Isola Bella (IB) for campers in June.   This massive undertaking also included volunteers that hailed from Northwest Connecticut Community College, and the ASD community. 

IB is located on an island in the middle of the twin lakes in Salisbury, CT in the Northwest corner of the state. It seems worlds away, but is only an hour from the ASD campus in West Hartford. The camp offers a fun atmosphere for children from across the country with hearing impairments. The summer at IB offers an important opportunity for kids to continue to use what they learned in school, while gaining new skills and experiences from fun activities at camp.

The large grounds are a great location for camp, but require some

View from the bus!

maintenance before kids return for the summer; this is where the hard work of volunteers comes in handy.

Fortunately, Saturday was the perfect day to work outside, the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot. Though it was easy to get distracted with startling views of the lake, volunteers worked diligently raking leaves, pruning, trimming low lying branches, chopping trees, weeding/mulching the flowerbeds, clearing the gutters, cleaning the camp house’s kitchen and cleaning up the beach.

Everyone was making great progress when the grill was fired up and the smells of burgers and hot dogs filled the air. A good old-fashioned summer barbeque was the perfect way for the 55 volunteers to take a lunch break and enjoy the sun. Then it was back to work for an hour or so until the tired crew was ready to get on the bus to head back to West Hartford.  Some of the families and students remained behind to fish while others donned their swim suits and splashed about in the water.

Thanks to everyone who made this a great Saturday, especially the kind staff at ASD and IB.

For more information about Camp Isola Bella visit:

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Murtha Cullina Donates Fresh Food to HOH

In less than one week, Hands On Hartford’s food pantry clients will have access to organically grown fresh produce thanks to the generosity of Murtha Cullina LLP. Andrew May, a long time volunteer of the agency’s Assistance & Advocacy program, approached The Hartford Food System and inquired about the availability of low-income farm shares through their Grow Hartford Program for our clients.
Grow Hartford is a Community Supported Agriculture program that increases awareness of food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and environmental issues. Initially, Andrew inquired about the possibility of obtaining a family share, however, when he learned from the Executive Director, that organizational shares were available he immediately brought it to the attention of Hands On Hartford’s management.
In order for the agency to obtain the organizational share it was necessary to seek a sponsor. Murtha Cullina graciously agreed to sponsor the share. The firm has been actively involved with our organization for over two years. Murtha Cullina’s employees, who serve meals at Community Meals monthly, have demonstrated a strong commitment to our MANNA program. As a consequence of Murtha Cullina’s sponsorship, our food pantry will be able to offer 75-100 pounds of locally grown/sustainable produce weekly to our clients for a duration of 3 months.

Tricia Hyacinth

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