Unionville woman continues gift tradition
This year’s effort takes on special meaning after loss of sister
By Ted Glanzer
If anything, Jayne Sully would have laughed herself to tears at the state of her sister Janet Culver’s Unionville home in late November.
Culver is a self-described neat freak whose living room was cluttered with donated purses, backpacks and small storage bags filled with toiletries, gloves, socks, hats, snacks and gift cards, collected for and subsequently donated to St. Vincent DePaul Mission, The Agape House and Brian’s Angels, all of Bristol.
Sully, who lived in Cape Cod, came up with the idea five years ago to collect pocket books and fill them with toiletries for women during the holiday season. Sully was battling cancer at the time and wanted to give back to the community, Culver said.
“There were a lot of homeless on the Cape and she felt it would be a good cause to help,” Culver said.
Culver brought the effort to Farmington in solidarity with her sister. The first two years, they focused exclusively on collections for women, but then the collections expanded to include items for men as well.
When Sully’s health wouldn’t allow it after two years, Culver carried on the collections in Farmington in her sister’s honor. And when Sully died on Aug. 17 at the age of 53, Culver collected items this year in her sister’s memory.
Culver said people wait for her to put the call out for items on Facebook on the Unionville and Farmington pages.
“They look forward to me every year,” she said.
This year, with COVID restrictions, Culver said she contacted the three collection centers in September to ensure they would accept her donations, which they did.
Every year has gotten a little bigger and this year Culver received a deluge of support.
Indeed, in addition to the too the 150 individual purses, zip lock bags and backpacks, Culver collected around $1,000, which she spent on items and gift cards.
“In talking to people, with 2020 the way it was with COVID, everybody seemed to be feeling they want to do something to make our world a little brighter,” she said. “Maybe they had a little extra money they weren’t spending on gas. The monetary donations huge.”
This year, in addition to toiletries snacks and gift cards, Culver accepted clothing donations.
“That wasn’t in my plans,” she said, adding that when she heard that’s what the homeless needed and people were dropping off items, “I couldn’t say no.”
She said she collected 12 to 15 large garbage bags full of clothes, including three or four bags that contained winter coats.
And Culver, a lifelong Unionville resident, is grateful for the response.
“[The support] has just been overwhelming,” Culver said. “I’ve been getting huge thank yous. I’ve had people drop off things on my porch. I’ve met so many people from the community. I’ve made a couple new friends.”
She said every donation counts. “I’ve had a few people drop off things and they apologize that it wasn’t more,” Culver said. “I told them every little bit helps and you do what you can. If it’s only $10, if that’s what you can do then it’s as gratifying as spending $100. “It’s better to do for than to be done for.”
Culver said she is done collecting for the year, and her living room has returned to normal. But next year around Thanksgiving, her home will again be filled with donations.