By Shirley Murtha
Past recipient of Granby's Community Service Award, Sandy Flagg is a community treasure. She is a woman of endless compassion who always finds a way to make life better for those who are in need of something. Nine years ago, she felt that Granby residents could benefit from having a community meal one night during the week where families and singles would get together and share not just the food, but also friendship. With donations of money and food, and South Church's generous loan of its kitchen and parish hall, the idea became a reality: the Waste Not Want Not Community Dinner was born. The relatively small number of early participants has grown to an average weekly head count of 150, and the people come from Agawam, Bloomfield, Simsbury, Southwick, Windsor and Windsor Locks as well as from Granby. Many are "regulars" who attend almost every week. Several groups always sit together — an absence raises concern. Flagg is overjoyed when birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated.
As the number of diners increased, it was obvious that another source of income was necessary to keep the program going. The Hungry Hearts Benefit Dinner and Auction was conceived. Held in the parish hall of St. Therese Church, the dinner combines delicious food, spectacular auction items, musical entertainment and Flagg's beautiful trademark decor. This year, the theme was spring gardens: green napkins entwined with sprigs of leaves and white paper birds accented the floral tablecloths. Vintage birdcage centerpieces and soil-filled eggshells potted with tiny plants enhanced the theme. The word "breath-taking" was frequently heard.
In addition to directing volunteers making the decorations and planning of the meal, Flagg takes the donations of goods and services for the auction and turns them into attractive themed packages. For example, a donated photograph of a songbird is nestled into a basket with a birdhouse, some birdseed and note cards. A monumental undertaking with one goal: to raise money to continue the weekly event that has become so special to so many.
This year's Hungry Hearts dinner raised over $13,000 from ticket sales, the auction items, the raffle and individual donations. Flagg notes that the dinner provides about half of the program's operating budget. An annual March event, it has become one of Granby's signature occasions for residents to come together.