By MATTHEW STURDEVANT, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
8:15 PM EST, December 28, 2012
— Snowflakes made of coiled copy paper, Post-it notes and even Swarovski crystal pile into a business-park office like an indoor blizzard.
They arrive by mail in envelopes and boxes. Some are dumped off by hand, others hauled in by UPS and FedEx workers.
"This is bigger than Santa Claus. The volume, it's just insane," said Joel Krivit, property manager at Wilbur Cross Commons Business Park on Connolly Parkway, as he watched people carry armloads of Frisbee-size snowflakes into an already crowded space.
Their destination: the office of the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association, a nonprofit organization that comprises more than 260 parent-teacher groups in communities across the state. On Dec. 16, only two days after the Newtown shooting left 20 children and six women dead, group leaders met with three members of Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School to discuss what to do to help the surviving students.
The answer: Snowflakes for Sandy Hook.
Sandy Hook remains closed. Students will return to classes next week but at a new venue, Chalk Hill Middle School in neighboring Monroe. The PTSA wants to decorate the halls and classrooms of Chalk Hill, making it a "winter wonderland" to welcome the students.
So they sent out a request for snowflakes via media and on the group's website. People replied in a big way. A flurry of letters quickly became a deluge — from places like Haltom City, Texas, and Metairie, La.
"Words cannot begin to express how deeply sorry I am that you are going through this tragic time," one note said.
A kindergarten teacher from San Diego wrote to say that her entire class made snowflakes for Sandy Hook students. Most, in fact, are from students in schools across the country and beyond.
Michael Baldarelli, a 2011 graduate of North Haven High School, read from a list of return addresses as another volunteer put pins in a U.S. map and a world map to indicate the sender's home.
England, Hong Kong, Germany, most of the United States, including Alaska, have all sent their regards. The PTSA even received some from U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, Baldarelli said.
"It's nice to see the whole world chipping in," Baldarelli said.
Asking for handmade snowflakes offered a cathartic exercise for people who want to express grief and share sympathy, said Jim Accomando of Fairfield, president of the Connecticut PTSA.
"Each snowflake represents the emotional outreach of the person making it," Accomando said.
Nearly 20 volunteers helped the PTSA's staff open the envelopes, sort them, document the places from which they were sent, and prepare them to be trucked to Chalk Hill. The deadline to send snowflakes is Jan. 12, but the PTSA is already nearly buried in what has arrived so far. Snowflakes will be delivered at some point after that.
Separately, the PTSA has asked schools to collect coins through Feb. 14 and send the proceeds to the PTSA, which will give them to the Sandy Hook parent-teacher association. For information, visit http://www.ctpta.org.
The overflow of snowflakes has filled rooms behind the PTSA's office. The owner of Wilbur Cross Commons Business Park has donated the extra space at no cost, said Krivit, the property manager. In addition, the PTSA has arranged for two large storage PODS and a tractor-trailer to house all the boxes, Accomando said.
The office floor Friday glistened with green and silver glitter that fell from decorated snowflakes.
"I'm already covered in glitter," said Sam Savitz, 16, a volunteer.
"We've gotten crystal and glass ones and hand-embroidered ones," Savitz said. "There's definitely a variety among the paper ones."
The flood of mail has engulfed the office. The association ordered new office phones recently.
"We have no idea where they are," Accomando said. "They're somewhere in those boxes. The sheer tonnage is overwhelming."
Copyright © 2013, The Hartford Courant