If you think people in Verona aren’t hurting and in need of help this holiday, just speak to Connie Pifher, who works at the Verona Community Center. Although Pifher’s main duties are coordinating the town’s health-related services, she has taken on the unofficial job of acting as a confidential clearinghouse for Veronans who have fallen on hard times and funneling donations their way.
In these tough economic times, Pifher’s role–and donations from Verona families–are particularly important. Gifts to charities like the Salvation Army and United Way are down significantly, she says, while Verona families have an increased need for help. Among the Veronans Pipher is trying to help are those suffering from illness, job loss, and the loss of a spouse, as well as seniors on fixed incomes and a family who recently survived a house fire.
She notes that sudden financial problems can be particularly challenging for Verona families, who may not be eligible for government programs. “It’s very embarrassing, and they don’t have a clue where to go for help,” says Pifher.
This year, Pifher is encouraging residents to donate gift cards for Verona’s needy. “People often want to buy presents for the children,” she says. “But gift cards empower the families so they can buy what their children really want and need.” Gift cards to stores like Target and KMart are ideal, since they give recipients the option of using them to buy food as well as gifts. Donating cards also simplifies things for Pifher, who can mail the cards, rather than trying to deliver bulky merchandise.
Despite the tough times, Pifher continues to be amazed at Verona’s generosity. This week, just as she worried that she was “cleaned out” of donations, a member of the Police Department arrived with a load of wrapped gifts that from the town’s police officers. “It’s the most miraculous thing,” she says. “There is a need and somehow it gets filled. This town is a very special place.”
You can bring donations to the Verona Community Center or mail gift cards to: Verona Health Department, 880 Bloomfield Avenue, c/o Connie Pifher. The VCC is open from 8:30 to 4:30 daily. It will close at noon on Wednesday, December 23, re-opening on Monday, December 28.