Robinson Gardens Youth Group
Holiday giving replay at Robinson Gardens
This year, there was food a plenty, and fuzzy stuffed puppies.
Three families at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Apartments were treated to the makings for soup-to-nuts holiday dinners, and excited members of the Youth Group that has blossomed there got an extra bonus of fluffy white stuffed puppies with blue plaid hats and scarves.
It was the stuff happiness is made of, and once again, thanks to generous local businessman Santino Tomassini, who is making his giving a habit at the family development in the Pine Point section of the city.
For the families who received the piles of groceries that will mean a plentiful holiday celebration, there was much to be thankful for. The three chosen families were not told of Tomassini’s gifts until they arrived at the community room.
“This took me by surprise,” admitted Mariela Caraballo, glancing down to a pile that included turkey, stuffing mix, white and sweet potatoes, turnips, apples, cranberry sauce, apples, and a pie.
“It’s a whole Christmas dinner. We’re going to have a great holiday,” said the mother of two girls, ages 13 and 4.
Yahaira Ortiz, mother of four, agreed, giving special praise to Tomassini, who has been such an outstanding supporter of the Robinson Gardens Youth Group.
“He’s very good to all of us, especially to the kids,” Ortiz said. “It’s going to be a great Christmas.”
SHA Youth Engagement Coordinator Jimmie Mitchell said Tomassini has been an inspiration to the teens, and a great benefactor to the families at Robinson Gardens, from supplying holiday meals to education support for children. In one case, he facilitated the gift of a set of bunk beds from Bunk Bed World to a family in need. Just a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving, he gave turkeys and hams to 17 families.
“He’s been amazing,” Mitchell said. “Without him I know we wouldn’t be as strong as we are today.”
This time, Tomassini added in the gift of two dozen soft, fluffy stuffed animals, given out to the teens in the Youth Group.
“He wanted to give the kids gifts,” Mitchell explained.
Mitchell’s Youth Group has grown from a handful of teens four years ago to nearly two dozen regulars today. Teens meet every weekday after school for activities, guest speakers, homework help, and in general, good advice from the man who was a teacher, counselor, and dean at Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy.
Mitchell, who retired in 2011 to launch the Youth Group at Robinson Gardens, keeps the focus on doing well in school and getting jobs for his charges. Teens have responded by showing up every day, working hard, and appreciating the good things they have, including the generous benefactor Tomassini.
Jaleace Lindsay, who is 16 and a loyal member of the Youth Group, said everyone likes Tomassini.
“We like him because he helps people,” said Lindsay, who is a junior at Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. “He’s generous and everything he does is good.”
Her friend and fellow Youth Group member Racquel Sewell, also 16, agreed.
“He’s very giving,” she said, hugging her stuffed puppy.
“He’s always doing nice things for us.”
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