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Community News For The Manchester Edition

Holiday Book Drive

MANCHESTER-WEST HARTFORD — Children's Reading Partners, Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and the West Hartford Rotary Club are teaming up for the fourth annual Greater Hartford Holiday Book Drive, which provides new and gently used books to at-risk elementary school students across our region.

The book drive will run through Dec. 18, with four drop-off locations in West Hartford, one in Manchester, and an online donation option. The drive began on Nov. 27. The book drive seeks hardcover or paperback books in new or very good condition, for grades pre-K through 3. New books are given to students and used books are donated to their school library. Drop-off locations include Beth El Temple, 2626 Albany Ave., West Hartford, 860-233-9696; Beth Sholom B'nai Israel, 400 East Middle Turnpike, Manchester, 860-643-9563; Congregation Beth Israel, 701 Farmington Ave., West Hartford, 860-233-8215; Keller Williams Realty, 29 South Main St., West Hartford, 860-313-0700; and The Emanuel Synagogue, 160 Mohegan Drive, West Hartford, 860-236-1275.

For after-hours donations, contact book drive organizer Bennett Forrest at 860-977-3176. Financial contributions are also welcome; every dollar is used to buy books for at-risk students. Visit bit.ly/GHBookDrive2017 to contribute online.

Free Hike At Highland Park

MANCHESTER — Come explore the history of the Case Brothers district and then take a three-mile hike to the summit of Case Mountain in the Highland Park section of Manchester on Saturday, Dec. 16, at 1 p.m. Extreme weather cancels. No dogs, please. Pictured is a Wells Case house circa 1918; photo by John Knoll.

Guests will see a waterfall, stone walls, carriage path, and Case mansions, as well as forest and ponds. Wear sturdy shoes or sneakers and expect some wet spots, steep climbs, and bumpy terrain. The hike and commentary will take about 2.25 hours. Participants in this moderately paced hike will learn basic hiking skills and, depending on the weather, view the Hartford skyline from the summit of Case Mountain.

There is also the option to come for just the history part of the walk, about 45 minutes, and skip the steep hill. The hike starts at the Spring Street trailhead at a GPS location of 670 Spring St. Meet by the boulder in the little park at the bottom of the waterfall. Parking is along one side of Spring Street, with a little parking at the trail head. The hike is co-sponsored by the CT Forest and Park Association and the Manchester Land Conservation Trust. Visit www.manchesterlandtrust.org for more information.

December Book Discussion

MANCHESTER — Join the discussion of "Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship" by Robert Kurson at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18, in the Howroyd Room at the Mary Cheney Library, 586 Main St.

The free program is open to the public and registration is not required. Light refreshments will be served. For further information, call Adult Services/Reference at 860-645-0821.

Outdoor Candle Lighting

MANCHESTER — Every year, Beth Sholom B'nai Israel of Manchester comes together to light the outdoor Hanukkah menorah on the front lawn of the synagogue each of the eight nights of the holiday so that all may see. This year, the first night was on Dec. 12. They will be lighting the candles every night of Hanukkah from Dec. 12 through Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

Note that Thursday, Dec. 14's lighting will take place at 6:30 p.m. and Friday, Dec. 15's lighting will take place at 3:45 p.m., prior to the start of Shabbat. Each night will feature different groups and organizations from the congregation. No registration is required. In the event of inclement weather, candle lighting will take place indoors. For more information on the Hanukkah Candle Lighting or any other programs, visit www.myshul.org or call 860-643-9563.

Toy Drive

MANCHESTER — Manchester Young Democrats are collecting toys for children whose families are clients of Interval House East, a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing and breaking the cycle of domestic violence. This is the 20th year that the Young Dems have collected toys, with the aim of making the holidays brighter for Manchester-area children affected by intimate-partner abuse.

Toys may be dropped off anytime before 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18, at the Barlow Law Office, 172 East Center St. Donations should be new, non-violent, unwrapped gifts for infants to teens, including toys, dolls, art supplies, craft and science projects, board games, books, trucks and trinkets, kitchen toys, puzzles, cars and trucks, earbuds, headphones, winter hats and gloves, movie passes, gift cards, school supplies, stocking stuffers such as non-perishable treats, personal care items. Donors have always included Democrats, Republicans, service organizations, churches, local businesses, clubs, and individuals. Questions may be directed to 860-646-4081.

Celebrate Recovery

MANCHESTER — Do you have a habit? If you have ever been hurt, you may have developed a habit to relieve or escape your pain. Sometimes you may acquire a habit by bad example or almost by mistake. A habit is an addiction to someone or something.

Maybe 'Celebrate Recovery' is for you. You don't have to struggle alone. The group meets from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays at Manchester CHurch of the Nazarene, 236 Main St. For more information, call 860-646-8599.

Community Action Agencies Accepting Energy Assistance Applications

AREA — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just released $67,255,113 in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding. This amount is 90-percent of LIHEAP funds allocated for the State of Connecticut.

Connecticut residents struggling to pay their utility bills this winter can apply for home heating assistance through Connecticut's Community Action Agency Network. The Community Action Agencies (CAAs) are the only nonprofit agencies administering LIHEAP, which provides home heating assistance to Connecticut's most vulnerable residents. Each CAA has application intake sites throughout their service regions. Some sites may include local town halls, and customers should check with their local CAA for a complete site listing.

In Connecticut this program is called the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) and is housed under the Department of Social Services (DSS). The state's Community Action Agencies administer the $74M+ program locally in all 169 cities and towns. CAAs are now accepting CEAP applications for the 2017-2018 winter season and expect more applications in the coming weeks, especially as temperatures begin to drop. Homeowners and/or renters may apply, and funds may be used to pay for whatever source of heating residents have in their homes. This includes wood, electric, oil, kerosene, or natural gas.

CAAs will certify oil deliveries starting Wednesday, Nov. 15, for those who heat with oil, propane, and deliverable fuels. May 1, 2018, is the last day households can apply for benefits unless the household is utility heated and has a shut off notice for its primary source of heat. May 15, 2018 is the last day a utility heated household with a shut off notice for its primary source of heat can apply for benefits.

Another protection for Connecticut's struggling families is the utility moratorium, or winter hardship, which provides protection for eligible households against heat source shut-offs between November 1st and May 1st. Gas and electric utilities cannot be shut off (summer or winter) if lack of the utility creates a life-threatening situation. If a customer is having trouble paying their utility bills during the winter moratorium period, Community Action Agencies will work with them on affordable utility payment programs, including the Matching Payment Program (MPP) and Below Budget Payment Plans. MPP is a payment incentive program that allows eligible utility customers to maintain year-round electric and gas service and pay an agreed-upon amount each month to pay down the balance on their heating bill. If customers cannot afford the utility payment plan, CAAs work with the customer and can submit a Below Budget Payment Plan based on the household income and expenses.

A CEAP benefit to a household automatically makes that household eligible for weatherization services. So, in addition to heating assistance, CAAs will refer customers to those agencies providing weatherization services, which helps minimize energy-related costs and fuel usage in homes through retrofits and home improvement measures. Additionally, there are funds available this year through the CAA for heating system repair and replacement if such services are deemed necessary and as the amount of funds allocated allow. Lastly, when a customer comes to a CAA for energy assistance, the agency will also assist customers in accessing other benefits for which they may be eligible including SNAP and other food programs, financial counseling, child care, and case management.

Connecticut's poorest families struggle each and every year to heat their homes in this a state with one of the highest utility rates in the country; customers many times having to choose between heating and eating or heating and paying for their medicines. CEAP allows them to not only cover high home energy costs and keep warm during the cold winter months, but gives low-income families the opportunity to address other critical, basic needs, rather than having to choose between them. Any resident who needs help paying their heating bill this winter should contact their Community Action Agency immediately.

For more information on Connecticut's Energy Assistance Program, how to find your local CAA to apply, or to make a donation, visit www.cafca.org or contact the Connecticut Association for Community Action (CAFCA), 144 Clinton Street, New Britain, CT, 06053, 860-832-9438.

Write Out Loud Open Mic Nights

MANCHESTER — Come take part in youth-led poetry and hip-hop dance workshops and then close your night with performing and/or cheering on others who display their talent and creativity at Eastside Neighborhood Resource Center, 153 Spruce St., from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 15, Jan. 26, Feb. 23, March 30, April 27 and May 25.

The open mic nights are for performers ages 13 through 19. No registration is required. Call 860-647-3089 for more information.

NAMI Meetings

MANCHESTER — The National Alliance for Mental Illness support group will hold their regular meeting on the third Thursday of every month. The location of the meeting will be held at the Center Congregational Church, 11 Center St., from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This meeting is open to all families and friends of people with mental illness and focuses on sharing experiences and information. All information is confidential. For more information on the meeting or becoming a member of NAMI, call Karen at 860-649-5659.

MCC Winter Intersession Classes

MANCHESTER — Registration is now open for Manchester Community College's winter 2017-18 intersession. Applications are now being accepted for new or returning students who want to enroll during this session, which begins Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 11, 2018.

Courses include topics in accounting, art, astronomy, biology, business, communication, computers, criminal justice, digital arts, economics, English, health, history, humanities, philosophy, psychology and sociology. Online and traditional classroom sections are available.

In addition, the credit-extension program is open to all non-MCC students who want to accelerate their studies and transfer the credits they earn back to their home institutions. Students looking to do this must check to make sure the credits are transferable back to their institution, as there are no refunds past the allowable drop period whether the course is transferable or not.

Students who have not taken a credited course at MCC or any of the Connecticut community colleges must pay a non-refundable $20 application fee. An MCC application for admission is required. Visit www.manchestercc.edu/catalogs for more information.

Jewish Life

MANCHESTER — Beth Sholom B'nai Israel invites people to come and see its community, be a part of Jewish life in Manchester and meet the clergy. Religious School is tuition free for members; the school is open to all Jewish children. For more information, visit www.myshul.org or call 860-643-9563.

Pet Food Drive

MANCHESTER — Bennet PTSA representatives are holding a pet food and supply drive to benefit Manchester residents through Manchester Animal Control. They are collecting crunchy and canned dog and cat food, used tennis balls and waste bags. Email bennetacademyptsa@gmail.com for more information.

Yoga Classes

MANCHESTER — Morning and evening yoga classes for people of all levels will take place at the Meetinghouse of Unitarian Universalist Society: East, 153 Vernon St. West. For more information, visit www.uuse.org or 860-646-5151.

Cost to attend is $40 per eight-week session or a $6 drop-in fee. Guests are asked to bring a yoga mat or large towel and wear loose clothing. First-time students are asked to arrive 10 minutes early.

Poets And Writers

MANCHESTER — The Wit & Wisdom Poets and Writers Club in Manchester is looking for new and established poets and writers. Club meetings are held at the Arbors, 403 W. Center St., on the second Saturday of each month, between 1 and 3 p.m. For more information, contact Charles Gilbert at 860-647-7348 or email Debbie at wwpoetryclub@gmail.com

MCC Library Goes Live

MANCHESTER — As part of the Integrated Library Project, the Raymond F. Damato Library at Manchester Community College has gone live with a comprehensive online search tool that will find and deliver materials stored not just at MCC but also at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) libraries and the Hartford-based Connecticut State Library.

Any state resident of high school age or older with valid ID is welcome to register as a borrower at MCC's Library. To use the new search tool, visit www.manchestercc.edu/library and enter keywords.

Youth Mini Grant Program

MANCHESTER — The Manchester Youth Commission is requesting proposals for mini grants. Applications for the Manchester Youth Commission Mini Grant Program are available at townofmanchester.org. Contact Heather at 860-647-5215, or heatherw@manchesterct.gov for details.

Hoopla Digital Content Available

MANCHESTER — Manchester Public Library card holders can download the free Hoopla digital mobile app on their Android or iOS device or visit hoopladigital.com to begin enjoying thousands of titles. Once registered patrons can borrow up to 10 items each month and Hoopla digital's automatic return feature eliminates late fees. Hoopla allows multiple simultaneous downloads so there is no wait to borrow. Titles are available for instant streaming or temporary downloading. To learn more about this exciting new offering click on the "Online Databases" link at library.townofmanchester.org.

MS Support Group

MANCHESTER — The Manchester MS Support Group meets at the Presbyterian Church, 394 Lydall St., at 10 a.m. on the first Monday of each month. Contact Nancy at 860-742-5155 or Karen at 860-746-4247. Visit ctfightsMS.org or call 800-FIGHT MS.

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