Coalition for a Better Wallingford starts new program for children, families 

Coalition for a Better Wallingford starts new program for children, families 

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WALLINGFORD — This weekend the Coalition for a Better Wallingford will start giving away bags full of crafts, books, snacks and more.

 “What’s in the Bag” is a six-week program funded and supported by town organizations and businesses, such as the Wallingford Public Library, Wallingford Community Women and the Trail of Terror. Some will sponsor all the bag giveaways for the week.  

Nikki Kern, coalition program director, said the program started during the height of the pandemic.

“We had this program money that we needed to use and no one was leaving their house,” Kern said. “...we said OK we’d bring the programming to people in their homes...”

The What’s in the Bag program started out with 200 to 300 participants and now has around 700. Christina Barber, a volunteer at the coalition, helped organize it, Kern said.  

Children will receive a bag if they are attending YMCA camps, Spanish Community of Wallingford programs, town Recreation Department camps, daycare programs and Boys and Girls Club camps. A child who is not any of these programs can pick up a bag at Coalition for a Better Wallingford, 136 Center St. 

“We start with a physical bag the first week, which is our week,” Kern said. “... After that first initial week, they get a Ziploc bag with everything else in it.” 

The theme for the first week is “Heroes.” 

“They get a mask they can color, they get stickers and tattoos, they get a booklet to kind of keep them busy...,” Kern said. “We put literature in there that is gentle and family friendly … We have something in there that is for parents to read through and know that this is a discussion they can have with their kids about substance abuse.”

The coalition was started in 2012 in response to increase in addiction and overdoses, mainly fueled by the opioid crisis. 

On Saturday, as a way to kick off the program, there will be “Red, White and Brew, and Treats Too!” at the Johanna Manfreda Fishbein Park Gazebo, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. There will be ice cream, coffee, donuts and cake pops. Children will also have the chance to meet a police officer.  

“Coffee with a cop is kind of a theme that we have been engaging the public with over the past few years and this is a little take on coffee with a cop called coffee with a hero,” said Deputy Police Chief  Anthony DeMaio. “It’s a combination event for their coalition while they are handing out their bags and having coffee with a hero. We thought it would be a nice event for us to participate in.”

The program will end with a scavenger hunt on Aug. 13, at 10 a.m., at the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail.  

Kern said along with spreading the message of the coalition, she hopes the program spreads the message of local organizations funding and supporting the program. 

“There’s all of these organizations in town that are willing to step up and give money or fund a week just solely because they want to be a part of this, for the kids...” Kern said. 

Reporter Jessica Simms can be reached at