AGAWAM – With banners in its parking lot, balloons on the railing and a sign that reads “Open” in the front of the building, the businesses in the Silver Brook Mill want residents to know they are there, open and ready to help.
Though the businesses are excited to have customers learn more about their home in the mills, they have banded together for a greater purpose – helping local families.
The businesses are hosting Christmas at the Mills on Dec. 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. to celebrate the holiday season and donate gifts to two Agawam families. The event will also allow for children and families to take pictures with Santa Claus, make an ornament, color and shop.
Artisan vendors will also be setting up shop in the mills for the day. They will pay a small fee, which will be donated directly to the families.
Vanessa Tuttle, owner of BellaNess Handcrafted Gift Shop, and Harold Cote, owner of JMC Graphics, have helped lead the businesses in Silver Brook Mills in organizing this event, as well as an open house at the mill on Nov. 14.
“It’s going to be a feel good event for us. It’s going to be feel good for the people who don’t know how to do something to help somebody. We’re helping that out too,” Cote said. “It’s going to be a feel good event for the people who receive the gifts to let them know that somebody cares.”
Monetary donations, as well as unwrapped, new toys are being accepted for the families. One of the families that the businesses are supporting has an active service member, and both Tuttle and Cote said if one parent is deployed, it is as if the entire family is, as well.
Tuttle, whose husband serves in the Navy, said she has seen this first hand.
“It’s tough. We’ve gone through 18-month deployments, and it’s very trying, not only for the significant other, but for the children as well. The children go through so much,” she said. “I know my kids had quite a tough time when their father was gone for 18 months. You can only imagine when you get a military family that is struggling and there’s only one parent and then there’s a number of children involved, that’s pretty heavy. During the holidays it’s even harder. Whatever we can do for this military family is going to be amazing.”
Cote said some families have had “the bottom fall out of their American dream,” but the people of Agawam have always been generous. The community within the mills, he said, wanted to take the initiative to do something good.
“I think in these times right now, that’s what we need,” Tuttle added. “We definitely need charity and love and support.”
The businesses, Cote said, would gain nothing from the event other than awareness. Tuttle said she wanted the greater Agawam community to know they are here to help.
“The mill is a great historical point for Agawam and the businesses are here and we’re here for the community. We would love to help out and do things. Even if members of Agawam come to us and say, ‘I’m having a school fair or we’re doing something for this team,’ we want them to feel like they can come in here and say, ‘Is there anything you can do for us,’” she said. “Right now for this event, we’re asking Agawam to do something for their own, but we also want them to feel like they can come to us and ask how we can help and support.”