Good Deeds, Dollars And Kindness Pour Into Newtown

A sign is hung out a building window at Church Hill Road and Washington Avenue in Sandy Hook Thursday morning. (BRAD HORRIGAN)

The thoughts and prayers of millions have supported Newtown since last Friday's Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and the open hearts have been matched by open wallets and acts of kindness, great and small.

From cookies and coats to yoga classes and class supplies, massages and meals, pets and pies are among the donations from a world that wants to help Newtown.

"Teddy bears, teddy bears, teddy bears and teddy bears," says Carl Samuelson, the assistant director of parks and recreation in Newtown. He supervises a 20,000-square-foot garage where items sent to the town are being stored. Also, "hams, turkeys, flowers, trees, plants, books, everything, from all over the world."

And the pace is picking up.

"We've had mental health providers offering their services for free. We've had people offer to make meals and deliver them. To give massages. To help set up the new school," says Maria Dynia of Connecticut United Way. "Someone offered to build a balloon arch."

Many of the good deeds appear to have been inspired by a tweet last weekend from NBC News journalist Ann Curry: "Imagine if all of us committed to 20 acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown. I'm in. If you are RT. #20Acts." Curry's number 20 was based on the number of children who died in the massacre. It was later amended to 26, to include the women who died at the school. The 26 Acts of Kindness movement grows every hour.

The list gets longer every day of people trying to help.

The Newtown General Store offered free coffee Wednesday, courtesy of Mary Martin of Beaumont, Texas, and on Thursday paid for by Floor Supply & Equipment Co. of Gardena, Calif.

The Milford Toys 'R' Us delivered $19,000 worth of toys to Newtown, paid for by a Louisiana businessman.

The Brass Mill Center mall in Waterbury held a school-supplies drive this week, as did the Farmington public schools.

Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford collected superhero capes for the Sandy Hook students.

The Starbucks in Newtown has become so accustomed to offers of foods and drinks for the town that it set up a "pay it forward" voice mailbox.

The Build A Bear Workshop in the Danbury Fair Mall has organized a drive to put a teddy bear on the desk of every Sandy Hook pupil when school resumes for them in January at Chalk Hill School in Monroe. Also, the Connecticut Parent-Teacher Association is collecting paper snowflakes to decorate the school in Monroe. They can be sent to CT PTSA, 60 Connelly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 104, Hamden, CT 06514.

Perhaps, the most heartbreaking donation is funeral services. "[About] 160 funeral directors are mobilized in the state. They are volunteering their time to help out," says Diana Duksa-Kurz of Newington, past president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association.

At least one funeral home, Honan, which is working with 11 Newtown families, and possibly other funeral homes, are not charging for their services to the Newtown families.

"Our profession is based on helping others," Duksa-Kurz said. "When serving a family that has lost a child, it's a way for us to give back."

Duksa-Kurz said that other funeral directors from around the country have offered to fly out at their own expense to help.

Some of the good deeds that have captured headlines include New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz's visit to the family of Jack Pinto, a 6-year-old victim of the tragedy who was laid to rest wearing a replica of a Cruz jersey; and the NBC TV show "The Voice" had all its contestants and coaches sing Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" in honor of the victims.

Want To Help, Too?

United Way's Dynia says that there is no central place for people to go to donate non-monetary goods and services. "They're still figuring that out. It's really hard to know because it's all so new."