SHELTON — Children in three Fairfield County shelters received a summer surprise thanks to Shelton-based DiMatteo Insurance.

The firm recently delivered 87 summer beach baskets to shelters in Norwalk and Stamford stuffed with a variety of kid-friendly, back-to-school items including markers, crayons, stuffed animals, foam balls and bubbles.

“The children absolutely loved the assortment of items they received in their summer beach baskets,” said Lisa Cooper, case manager of Open Door Shelter Inc. in Norwalk, one of three shelters which received a donation organized by DiMatteo Insurance. “This kind gesture was so unexpected and made everyone so happy.”

The annual tradition to aid homeless children in the region was started by DiMatteo Insurance more than 20 years ago, when the firm typically distributed Easter baskets. Because of the pandemic, DiMatteo Insurance delayed its community project until August.

Baskets were delivered to Open Door Shelter Inc. and Domestic Violence Crisis Center, both in Norwalk, and Inspirica Inc. in Stamford. Each basket was filled with age-appropriate necessities specifically for children ages birth to 3 and 13 to 17.

“This donation came at the right time,” Anita Lai, manager of community initiatives at the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, said. “With no camp and no school in session for months, the baskets were distributed to 17 very appreciative and excited children. We sincerely thank the DiMatteo family and their associates for their ongoing thoughtfulness over the past two decades. They are so committed to helping others.”

Since its inception, nearly 2,000 baskets have been put in the hands of thousands of area children in need. The baskets were assembled and donated by DiMatteo Financial, DiMatteo Insurance and ACBI Insurance, all in Shelton. Their employees, family, friends and clients and contributed to the annual community outreach project.

Kim DiMatteo of Bethany, branch manager of DiMatteo Insurance, an affiliate of Cross Insurance, and Zaibel Torres of Bridgeport, receptionist, spearheaded this year’s community service drive.

“I want to personally thank the seven employee volunteers who spent weeks preparing for this worthwhile community project,” DiMatteo said. “Initially, I started the basket giving program more than 20 years ago with my husband, John, and my three children, Anthony, Michael and Jessica. Now it’s expanded into a much-anticipated annual tradition throughout Fairfield County.”

DiMatteo Insurance supports many other local charities through the DiMatteo Family Charitable Foundation.

The foundation was established more than 15 years ago as a tribute to their founder and late father, Anthony “Tony” DiMatteo, who was battling cancer at the time. Since then, the foundation has contributed more than $412,000 for various local and national charities that fund research, education and finding a cure for diseases.