Sinead Connolly is living the Taft motto, collecting blankets for a homeless shelter, sending letters to soldiers and veterans, and cards to hospitalized children.
In the heat of the summer, when most people were thinking about how to keep themselves cool, Sinéad Connolly ’21 started thinking about how to keep others warm.
“Every Wednesday evening last summer I went to the soup kitchen at the St. Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury to help serve meals,” Sinéad explains.
During her time at St. Vincent DePaul, Sinéad thought a lot about the people the mission serves, and the many challenges they face. She thought about how difficult the winter months can be for those with no permanent place to call home.
“I wanted to find ways to continue helping, once I returned to school, so I asked the director of the shelter what their greatest needs were during the winter months,” says Sinéad. “He said there was always a need for blankets and hats for their clients.”
And with that, Warm Thoughts, Helping Hands was born. Sinéad founded Warm Thoughts, Helping Hands as a goal-driven, mission-specific service organization designed to bring communities together to support those in need. To date, Taft students, members of Sinéad’s church, and public high school students in Waterbury have engaged in Warm Thoughtsprojects. She hopes to bring a Watertown elementary school into the fold this year.
“My first goal was to deliver 150 hats to St. Vincent DePaul by November 1,” Sinéad says, “then to follow that up with a donation of 25 blankets.”
Her church helped answer the call on hats—Sinéad’s website includes a link to a tutorial showing how to make a simple fleece hat—and both the Taft community and Waterbury’s Kennedy High School have come through with blankets. Sinéad will collect new and gently used blankets throughout the school year; collection boxes are in each dormitory common area at Taft.
“Students at Kennedy also made blankets for the drive,” Sinéad says. “There is a link on my website to blanket-making kits. There is no sewing involved, you just tie them. It was a great project for the students—they seemed to really enjoy it.”
As an official club at Taft, Warm Thoughts, Helping Hands holds regular meetings on campus, which has allowed Sinéad to expand her work to include new initiatives. Alicia Maag ’21 helps manage the club. During the meetings, students are invited to write letters to soldiers and first responders, or to create cards for hospitalized children.
“My goal is to collect 150 letters and 150 cards before the end of the school year. In just these first few months of school we already have 50 letters and 25 cards, so we’re off to a very good start. I’ve been grateful for how many people have come to the meetings and gotten involved,” says Sinéad.
Sinéad will deliver the letters to Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit organization working to support members of the active military and their families, veterans, wounded heroes and their caregivers, and first responders. The cards will be sent to Cards for Hospitalized Kids, an internationally recognized charitable organization that spreads “hope, joy & magic” to hospitalized kids across America through uplifting, handmade cards.
“We’re all very busy here at Taft, so it may be difficult for people to make all of the meetings. Having projects like these means that people can still contribute even if they can’t come to a meeting. Anyone can write a letter or make a card on their own time,” says Sinéad. “Those simple gestures can really go a long way in making a difference in someone’s life.”
Learn more about Warm Thoughts, Helping Hands, by visiting their website.
Photo captions: Cover/hero image: From left, Patience Kum, Annabelle Shanks, Alicia Maag, and Sinead Connolly deliver blankets to the St. Vincent DePaul Shelter in Waterbury, CT; top: Sinead with a blanket for donation; middle: Students at Waterbury's Kennedy High School made and donated blankets; bottom, from left, Alicia Maag, Sinead Connolly, and Annabelle Shanks working the letter-writing initiative at Taft.