Valley celebrates 10th annual Monkey Love Valentine Drive

Stuffed monkeys swung in to Shelton for the tenth annual “Monkey Love Valentine Drive,” an annual effort to collect stuffed animals for children in need.

During the past ten years, over 10,327 stuffed monkeys have been collected and distributed to children in need of  smiles and a new friend to warm their hearts.

Jennifer Sneider, the owner of J-Cuts barber shop located at 505 Howe Ave. in downtown Shelton, organizes the drive every year.  She is always amazed by the outpouring of kindness from the community.

“Every year more and more people join in,” says Sneider. “Now that this collection is well established, monkeys find their way to J-Cuts throughout the year. When people see stuffed monkeys for sale, they think of children in need.”

J-Cuts became the main drop off location after taking the drive over from the owners of Luther’s Garage, which is now closed.

“This is my sixth year being involved,” says Sneider. “We have so much fun.  My customers, co-workers and family all love to get involved!  We decorate the barber shop in anticipation of a whole bunch of monkeys moving in for a little while.  It is an amazing feeling to know each and every one of these monkeys will find comfort in the arms of a child in need and children will find comfort in these monkeys.”

Additional collection locations this year included Minuteman Press of 427 Howe Ave., Suite 2 and the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce, 10 Progress Drive, 2nd Floor, both of Shelton, along with Barb’s Corner Consignment of 25 West Main Street, Ansonia.

Minuteman Press also donated posters.

Mary Finnegan and Lenny Marconi held their Sixth Annual Monkey Love Sunday Jan. 31 at Off the Hook Bar & Grill on Ferry Boulevard in Stratford.

As a member of the online meet-up group, Party Express, Marconi decided to invite everyone to Off the Hook each year for a monkey drop off party. Between donations from this group and many loyal customers of Off the Hook, over 100 stuffed monkeys were collected again. Off the Hook holds a Monkey Love Sunday celebration each year on the Sunday before Super Bowl. Next year, they hope to have other area pubs in Stratford join in.

For the third year in a row, the Milford Fire Department dropped off donations along with Bright Horizons child care center of 3 Corporate Drive, Shelton and United Methodist Women of the First United Methodist Church, 47 Franklin St. in Ansonia.

The United Methodist Women, led by Barbara Tchakirides, crocheted 12 adorable and colorful stuffed monkeys. “We enjoyed crocheting these monkeys knowing they would warm the hearts of children in need on Valentine’s Day,” says Tchakirides.

This annual community event benefits abused and neglected children, impoverished, adopted and sick children, as well as children who may feel a little left out when a younger sibling is born and children treated for cancer or other illnesses at local hospitals.

The 9th Annual Monkey Love Valentine Drive, held in 2015, collected and distributed over 1,880 stuffed monkeys to area organizations to give to children in need.

Children benefited by the drive this year are serviced by the Lower Naugatuck Valley (Shelton) Boys & Girls Club, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital in New Haven, TEAM Inc. in Derby and Ansonia, BHcare’s Center for Domestic Violence Services in Ansonia, Griffin Hospital of Derby and the Department of Children & Families in Milford.

Coordinators also shared 26 of the stuffed monkeys as “26 Random Acts of Kindness.”

J-Cuts also holds an Annual Back-To-School Book Bag & School Supply Drive which begins July 1.

For information on holding a collection of your own next year, beginning Jan. 1, 2017, call J-Cuts, 203-924-4107.