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Toys and Masks: New Haven Students Stock Up For Holidays

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Standing in a room full of toys forces tough decisions for a five-year-old. Barnard Magnet Elementary School first-grader, Sasha Cato, carefully made her picks of a pack of dolls and a tea set.

She and her mom came to the school’s toy giveaway Wednesday where Chaz Carmon happily took on the role of Santa’s elf.

“It makes me excited when I’m in here and kids get to pick out gifts and get things they want, and you see the smile on their face when they walk out,” said Carmon, who is the in-school solutions coordinator at Barnard.

He worked with his community group Ice the Beef, Barnard staff, New Haven police, Target and others to make Christmas a little brighter for students.

Parents said the help goes a long way.

“It really does a lot because earlier in the year I was sick so I was off work, so we’re trying to catch up and stuff, but this helps a lot,” said Sasha’s mom Stephanie Johnson-Cato.

“Barnard school and Ice the Beef, we believe in community, we believe in family,” said Carmon. “Our school here is environmental and community-driven. When you think of community, you think of a village, you think of people coming together.”

Kids were able to come back to Barnard today to pick up holiday gifts. And not only that, because the schools have been fully remote all year long, they were able to get school awards too.

Sasha showed off an award for music. The five-year-old plays the guitar and ukulele.

“It’s very nice, a lot of people are having a hard time especially during COVID,” said parent Jennifer Anderson.

Carmon said there’s always been a need in New Haven and this year, the pandemic has also hit people who donate to efforts like this. So, he’s thankful for all the support.

“You have families that came in who, due to COVID, have lost jobs and have kids that had nothing,” said Carmon. “They left with bags of toys. We made sure we filled bags of toys up to make sure they were able to put them under the tree.”

While Barnard gave away toys, in Fair Haven, schools give away masks with their regular meals for students and their families.

“Many of our students’ families have been impacted by COVID,” said John Martinez School Assistant Principal Evelyn Jaca.

City officials said New Haven has had high numbers for the last three to four weeks. They’re working on efforts like this in Fair Haven, Fair Haven Heights and the Hill.

“A percentage of people in the Latinx population that are testing COVID positive is higher than we saw earlier on,” said New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. “And so, we’re doing a lot of outreach in particular to the Latinx community.”

“The city is making efforts to control the spread of the virus and so anything we can to, giving the mask as we give the food is one more step to trying to keep everyone safe,” said Jaca.

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