AN AVON COUPLE has raised big-time funds for a significant holiday program sponsored by The Village for Families & Children.
A nonprofit social service agency based in Hartford, The Village focuses on an essential goal with many interrelated facets.
“The Village’s mission,” per its website, “is to build a community of strong, healthy families who protect and nurture children.”
The nonprofit’s Holiday Giving Tree program supports this mission, and Dana and David Misorski have supported this festive initiative by fundraising nearly $31,000 since 2015. The program provides gift cards for families in need so they can purchase toys, food and necessities during and after the holiday season.
David and Dana—who is known as “Mrs. Christmas”—serve as volunteer ambassadors for The Village. Dana wants all children to experience “that time of year where magic should exist,” she says.
While the holidays can be full of joyous moments, the season is also known to be a stressful time for families —financially and emotionally.
In the mist of this seasonal tension, Dana sees an opportunity to give back.
“The holidays are so meaningful to a lot of people and they can be challenging for many others,” she says. “If there’s something I can do to help, or ease a burden for families in any way, I know that I need to try.”
The outreach is a team effort. While Dana has been the driving force, David and their 7-year-old daughter Lane have worked together in a full-steam-ahead endeavor, encouraging support from friends and strangers alike.
The family moved to Avon from Farmington in June 2015.
Dana has inspired local schools and businesses to get on board the holiday train—including the Goddard School of Farmington, a combination preschool-and-daycare program that collected almost $1,000 in gift cards this year.
Her annual fundraising has steadily increased. In 2020 she raised more than $7,000 to purchase gift cards for families. This year her aim was $8,000, but she surpassed that goal by raising over $9,000.
“I’m always in awe of the support we receive,” she said. “It’s not just about helping families provide toys and food—though that’s of course a big part—but it’s also about the feeling … it’s about knowing there’s somebody out there who cares enough to try and help.”
Trying to help—and following through with tangible support—has been a hallmark of The Village for more than 200 years.
The Village for Families & Children was founded in 1809 as the Hartford Female Beneficent Society, and the organization was one of the first in the nation to provide homes for neglected children, per its website. Two centuries later, The Village offers a diverse range of services—including behavioral health, early childhood and youth development, substance-abuse treatment and other support programs for children, families and adults in Greater Hartford.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the Holiday Giving Tree shifted gears in 2020. Instead of collecting toys, the program gave gift cards to families so they could select toys and other gifts for their children. Many families told The Village that the ability to choose in their gift giving was a major gift itself that boosted their sense of dignity.
Before COVID hit, when Dana was still buying toys for the Holiday Giving Tree, she and David met a teen employee at a local toy store as they loaded literally hundreds of toys into their car. Upon learning that the toys were part of a Village initiative, the teen explained that he was a “child of The Village”—he had received support there throughout his childhood.
“That young man has stayed in my heart for years,” Dana says. “I take a lot of comfort in the fact that he spoke so highly of The Village. We live on that inspiration year after year.”
The inspiration of the holiday season can give hope to families—and the Holiday Giving Tree is proof of the power of sacrificial giving in engendering hope—yet the stress of the holidays can exacerbate a family’s hurts and heartaches.
“We believe that families can thrive despite traumatic experiences they may have suffered in the past or adversity that may overwhelm them now,” says The Village’s Linkedln page. “The work we do enables children to be socially and emotionally healthy, thrive in safe and permanent homes and … succeed academically.
“The Village’s main campus is on Albany Avenue, complemented by two other Hartford locations: The Village South on Wethersfield Avenue and the Spring Street Family Center.
The Village’s model is to customize programs that treat the whole person, per the Linkedln page—thereby helping children, adults and families “build resilience to overcome challenges that life throws at them.”
The agency’s complementary construction goal is as follows: “Our work also builds strong, stable communities.”
This mission wholeheartedly dovetails with Dana Misorski’s heart for giving back.
“Overall, I want to spread as much awareness as possible,” she says. “At the end of the day, all you can do is put good out into the world and hope that people become inspired by it and want to do more.”