Burrillville officials find ways to create holiday joy amidst a pandemic

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BURRILLVILLE – With the holiday season now in full swing, towns and cities across the country are faced with cancelling and re-imagining beloved local traditions to maintain social distancing and group size guidelines. This year, Burrillville is no different, and they have welcomed that challenge with some creativity of their own.

“Cancelling our yearly events, that normally bring so much joy to so many, was not easy,” said Recreation Director Andrea Hall. “It is hard, but it is necessary.”

Despite having to call off most of their events, most notably their annual Santa at Stillwater event, the town has found ways to bring its residents together in different ways to keep everyone safe and to follow the state’s guidelines.

This year’s Santa Calling event, which has also become a staple in Burrillville’s holiday festivities, allows children in grade two and under to receive a personalized phone call from Santa Claus himself, and has fit in perfectly with this new age of social distancing. Fifty two children are expected to hear from Saint Nick, with calls starting earlier this week. They have provided families some sense of normalcy in a time that is anything but that.

“It really is such a feel good program,” Hall explained. “People taking time out of their busy lives to keep the Christmas magic alive for the littles.”

The town also plans to ramp up its decorating with the help of some local organizations. The Jesse Smith Library will help the Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments decorate the Town Common and Stillwater Pavillion in efforts to keep spirits up even without its usual events. The Harrisville Fire Department will offer their usual help with the common, and Boy Scout Troop 102 will assist in additional decorations, including wreaths starting this weekend. 

The Burrillville Conservation Commission will chip in, with their annual decorating of the “Welcome to Burrillville,” signs. And Ms. Byrne and Ms. Cairo’s classes from AT Levy Elementary School will pitch in, decorating a pine tree by the pavilion.

As it is the season of giving, the Parks and Recreation Department also urges Burrillville residents to give back and volunteer time to those who need it. 

Even though the town’s annual Holiday Card contest has also been cancelled, last year’s cards, designed by Burrillville Elementary students, are on sale for $2 at the Harrisville Li’l General and the Parks and Rec building. All proceeds will go to local families in need.

Hall also highlights a group of volunteers working through the Emergency Grocery and Prescription Delivery program as well as the Weekend Snack Pack program. This month, these volunteers plan to deliver 55 Christmas baskets to seniors and families of Burrillville. Donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated and can reach out to Hall at (401) 710-7429 to see how to get involved.

And those are not the only ways to help this holiday season.

Call a relative or a friend who might be lonely, say hello to a stranger, say thank you to people risking exposure at work so we can get food and other necessities, shop local, recognize front line workers,” Hall urged. “There are so many ways to be kind, and it often is appreciated more than people realize.”

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