As part of CT Governor M. Jodi Rell’s Taskforce and holiday initiative, New Haven Job Corps Center students and staff partnered with the staff of CT DOL to collect toys for Operation ELF (an acronym for Embracing Lonely Families). The purpose of the drive is to distribute toys statewide to the families of deployed service people. On Tuesday, two students, Kyterrua Wells, C.N.A., and Pedro Galarza, Facilities Maintenance, delivered hundreds of donated toys collected under this partnership to the Hartford Armory. We were granted special clearance and special passes from Governor Rell to drive the toys inside the upper level of the Armory- over hardwood floors- and then to tour the Armory and visit with personnel.
Both students worked with Kimberly Hoffman, Director of Family Programs, and Michelle McCarty, her assistant, both from the Connecticut National Guard, to arrange toys, speak about the Job Corps program, and learn more about Operation ELF. As it turns out, C.N.A. student Kyterrua Wells is a seasoned child of a military family and knew just what questions to ask our hosts. Connecticut National Guard military personnel and staff shared doughnuts and coffee with NHJCC students as they worked together.
At the close of the toy delivery, we were invited to participate in a fun day at Camp Rell in Niantic in Eastern Connecticut, where NHJCC students will paint faces, play games, listen to music, and engage in other recreational activities with children and youth as in another opportunity to give back to the community. Arrangements are being made through both the New Haven and Hartford CT DOL Job Corps Liaisons, and will likely include Hartford Job Corps Academy students and staff as well.
Following the toy delivery, the Armory tour was conducted by Tony White, HR Manager and CT DOL Liaison for the military, and included a detailed history of the building, illustrated by photos and statues, and future plans for the housing the military. Currently, the Hartford Armory, a secure facility, houses the State Militia, but it is soon expected to house the military, as well. Part of the tour included a walk past Homeland Security, and while we did not have clearance to walk through its doors, we did take photos of the “Homeland Security” sign on the door. Back in Tony’s office, the students heard about opportunities for seasonal and temporary employment, along with the employability skills that would qualify them for full time work following such assignments.
After we thanked our military hosts and departed the Armory, we went on to visit CT DOL in Wethersfield, where students Kyterrua and Pedro met with key DOL staff and were taken on a tour of the building. Paul Oates, Communications Specialist with CT DOL, requested copies of our photos of today’s tour for their staff and partner newsletter.
Finally, NHJCC students were treated to a lovely luncheon by CT DOL at a nearby Italian restaurant. Both students were awed by the day’s events and thrilled to have engaged in a fantastic community service. They represented the Job Corps program beautifully, displayed incredible holiday spirit, and were delivered back to New Haven Job Corps Center soundly asleep in the car.