How a Farmington woman’s annual clothing and toiletries drive honors her late sister’s charitable legacy – Hartford Courant

Jayne Sully had quite the sense of humor, according to her sister Janet Culver.

Sully, who died of cancer two years ago, would have loved nothing more than to see how the Culver home in Unionville is transformed in October and November following the annual clothing and merchandise campaign Culver toilet to benefit the homeless in Bristol.

“My house is turning into a warehouse,” said Culver, a self-proclaimed neatnik. “[Sully] would laugh at me. She had a hell of a sense of humor. If you see a Pod in my driveway, you’ll know why.

Eight years ago, Sully, who lived on Cape Cod, had the idea of ​​collecting wallets and filling them with women’s toiletries during the holiday season. Sully was battling cancer at the time and wanted to give back to the community, Culver said.

“She told me about it and I thought I could do the same thing in Farmington,” Culver said, adding that she would ask people to donate unused purses that she could fill with items from toiletries, clothing and gift cards.

“We all know women have extra handbags in their closets that they no longer use,” Culver said.

The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, Culver said, leading her to move the items she salvaged from the kitchen table into the living room. Two years later, Culver began collecting men’s items and stuffing them into Ziplock bags. A few years later, Culver collected children’s items and stuffed them into backpacks, she said.

“It grows every year,” she says.

Sully’s death has only further motivated Culver to continue his annual campaign, which includes a call for soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene products, combs, brushes, gloves, hats, scarves, socks and $5 McDonald’s gift cards.

“For the past three years, I have received cash donations. I would tell people that I will shop for you,” she said. “If I run out of toothpaste, I’ll go to the Dollar Tree and buy some more. When things end, if I still have money, I’ll go to McDonald’s and buy $5 gift cards. It doesn’t sound like much, but one of the volunteers told me it meant more to [the unhoused] which we’ll never know because it allows them to come in, use the bathroom, sit down with a cup of coffee and they’re a customer and won’t be asked to leave.

“McDonald’s is the best because of the reasonable prices, and there’s a McDonald’s everywhere.”

Culver, 66, begins his collection the first week of October with a Facebook appeal and usually stops at the end of November so he can pack items and deliver them to St. Vincent De Paul Mission, Agape House and Brian’s Angels, all in Bristol.

Some donations come from as far away as Texas and Florida, Culver said. An octogenarian sent in a box of items, the postage of which likely costs more than the items themselves, Culver said.

“But she was doing what she wanted to do,” Culver said.

Often women's toiletries are overlooked or absent from the public consciousness when donating to homeless shelters, according to Janet Culver.  (Douglas Hook / Hartford Courant)

Culver grantees are very grateful.

“If we don’t have those kinds of gifts, we won’t be able to accomplish much,” said Matt Norton, director of Agape House Homeless Outreach. “We are 100% voluntary and 100% donation-based, so people like that, we can’t do it without her. She is one of our greats.

Unfortunately, the need never diminishes. A recent report identified nearly 3,000 homeless people in Connecticut, representing a 13% increase from 2021 to 2022.

“We serve up to 60 people a day,” Norton said. “Food, clothes, any kind of services that we can possibly give them to go in the right direction. …

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“Anyone doing this stuff, people need to realize what we go through on a daily basis. We drink a pound of coffee a day. We eat a pound of sugar a day, 70 to 80 paper plates a day. We absolutely couldn’t survive without someone like her.

Janet Culver said she was motivated to help not only by her sister and her legacy, but also by the good fortune she has experienced in her life.  (Douglas Hook / Hartford Courant)

Culver, Norton said, is one of many people weaving a tapestry of support for the Agape House so that it can function. And while cold weather might seem like the perfect time to donate that unused scarf or coat, Norton said homeless people need it all year round.

“The time is always right,” he said. “In the middle of summer, it is very hot. It’s almost as hard for these guys to live outside as it is in the cold.

Culver said she was motivated not only by her sister and her legacy, but also by the good fortune she has experienced in her life.

“When I see a woman walk in with a purse that you know you’ve stuffed, it makes me feel amazing,” she said. “I have a nice house. I have food on the table. It’s a world I don’t know, but I know it now. Many times I cry on the way home. I know my sister is looking at me and thanking me.

Anyone wishing to donate to Culver should email Culver at [email protected].

Culver isn’t the only one looking to help the area’s homeless. Hartford Police Officer James Barrett is looking for people to donate sleeping bags, sweatpants and sweatshirts, sizes M-XL. In a Facebook postBarrett said the items can be purchased from an Amazon wishlist (amzn.to/3REIyix) and are sent directly to him.

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