Our Story

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Gentle Love Diaper Pantry was founded in June of 2020 by Kyle Zingler, then a sophomore at Manchester High School, with the support of his classmates Alexandra Hamza, Jabari Murphy, and his sister Julia Zingler and her close friend, Sylvia Squatrito. 

 

One day in early April 2020, Kyle’s mother, who works for Vernon Public Schools, expressed her struggles connecting a mother in a domestic violence incident with diapers. Kyle was motivated to solve this injustice after learning that there were no diaper or baby supply pantries accessible to families in his community. Diapers had also been hard to come by due to material shortages and disruptions within the supply chain. Additionally, federal assistance programs like SNAP and WIC do not cover or defray the cost of diapers which amount to significant expense for families, costing on average $70-80 a month per a child.

 

He held his first diaper drive on June 11, 2020 which collected over 17,000 diapers and since then the initiative has grown into a full scale, youthled nonprofit with diapers being distributed through four community partners (The Bridge Food Pantry, the Manchester Public Schools Welcome Center, Hockanum Valley Community Council and the ECHN Family Development Center). Over 120,000 diapers and 110,000 wipes have been distributed to marginalized, low income families. However, our work is only beginning.

Youth Board Members
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Alexandra Hamza

Alexandra  (Vice Chair) is a senior at Manchester High School. She was a member of the Class of 2022 Class Board for two years and is currently a member of the Student Equity Advisory Team which educates students on racial problems and their possible solutions. In the Manchester Community, Alexandra has been involved in the Manchester Rebuilding Together program, and has volunteered in the summer at day camps around town. She is also the treasurer on the Manchester Youth Commission, a group of Manchester Youth giving a voice to the youth in the town government decisions. When not helping out around school or in her local community Alexandra runs for the Manchester High School  Cross Country team, reads and is involved in the variety of clubs offered at her high School. She is also a member of the FA Verplanck Chapter of the National Honor Society.

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Kyle Zingler

Kyle (Chair) is a senior at Manchester High School and has been actively involved in his community from a young age. Kyle participates in year round productions with CAST Children’s Theatre and is a Eagle Scout with Troop 27 at St. Mary’s Church. Giving back to his community feels like second nature to him, and he decided to establish Gentle Love Diaper Pantry in Manchester, CT to help families in his community facing unmatched economic and psychological pain. He serves on the Manchester Youth Commission and is a Peace First Ambassador for the US and Canada. At Manchester High School, he is a member of SEAT (Student Equity and Advisory Team), the FA Verplanck Chapter of the National Honor Society and Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble.

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Sylvia Squarito

Sylvia (Co-Secretary) is a junior at Manchester High School. She was a member of the Manchester High JV basketball team her freshman year. She participates in the PAWS club which helps raise money and awareness for local animal shelters. Every summer she volunteers at the annual MARC golf tournament which raises money to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. When not in school she plays AAU basketball with her team, competing in tournaments around the country.

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Jabari Murphy

Jabari Murphy (Board Member at Large) is a sixteen year old life-long resident of Manchester who is a senior at Manchester High School. Jabari plays the alto saxophone and is involved in the music program at Manchester High School, performing with the Jazz Band, Concert Band, and Marching Band. He is also a member of the FA Verplanck Chapter of the National Honor Society. He is a frequent volunteer in Hartford at Center Church’s Soup Kitchen. Jabari is excited to join Gentle Love Diaper Pantry and sees the value in helping families in need with diapers.

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Julia Zingler

Julia  (Co-Secretary) is sixteen years old and a junior at Manchester High School and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Julia loves to dance and has been dancing at Northstar Academy for 11 years. She is a member of the dance competition team and a teaching assistant. She has also participated in CAST Children’s Theatre productions since second grade. Julia loves to help others and is excited to be a part of this organization.

Adult Board Members

Ray Gagnon, Treasurer

Ray is a Manchester resident. He is a Director with Red Thread in East Hartford, CT.  His work at Red Thread includes leading the Project Management and Sales Coordination departments in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.  He has a Masters Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven.

Sarah Jones, Member

Sarah is a Manchester resident. She is a consultant with the State Education Resource Center in Middletown, CT.  Her work at SERC has included the management of a large federal grant.  She is a licensed Restorative Practices trainer, an endorsed Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports trainer, and a certified Affiliate for Courageous Conversations About Race.  She is also serving her fourth term on the Town of Manchester Board of Directors where she currently holds the position of Deputy Mayor. In her spare time she also volunteers on the planning committee for the Manchester Road Race.

Dr. Carlita Elias, Psy.D. , Member

Carlita is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Practice Owner of Elias Psychological Services. Her professional specialties include infant and early childhood mental health and development, maternal mental health, intergenerational trauma, and attachment/relationship based therapies. She holds a national endorsement as a Level III Infant Mental Health Specialist and Reflective Supervisor.

 

Dr. Elias has dedicated her career to incorporating social justice concerns in clinical practice and meeting the mental health needs of underserved and marginalized populations. Before starting her practice, she worked at several Hartford area non-profit agencies as a clinician and program director. She has a wealth of experience working on interdisciplinary teams and implementing evidence based, culturally sensitive clinical practices. She is a graduate of the University of Hartford Graduate Institute for Professional Psychology. She has been an adjunct instructor for Child Psychotherapy, Family Therapy, and Child Development. She also serves her community as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the CT-Association for Infant Mental Health (CT- AIMH). Dr. Elias has lived in Manchester CT since 2002 where she and her husband have raised three teenage children.

Latasha Easterling-Turnquest, Member

Latasha serves as the Chief of Family Partnerships and Student Engagement for the Manchester Public School System. She has been serving the Manchester community for the past 15+ years. In her role she has worked alongside families, community members and school staff. Implementing programming for youth in the schools, and  building the capacity of adults through a variety of classes and workshops. She has also worked with families that had children under the age of 5 facilitating playgroups, home visits and developmental screenings. Her work focuses on strengthening relationships, building the capacity of parents and staff, and creating opportunities while reducing barriers. Mrs. Turnquest provides oversight of the Manchester Public School’s eight Family Resource Centers, Parent Leadership Trainings, School Governance/Advisory Councils, Community Partnerships, and the Welcome Center, where centralized registration for grades K-8 occurs. Mrs. Turnquest obtained her Masters in Education Degree at the University of Hartford.

Milka Frison, Member

Milka is the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Equity & Partnerships and District-Wide Registrar for grades K-8 at the Welcome Center. Born in Puerto Rico & raised in Hartford, Connecticut, she has been providing administrative support for over 20 years around the US, including the Wells Fargo Operations Center in Billings, Montana. Although the majority of her experience has been with the corporate world, she began working in education with Manchester Adult & Continuing Education in 2012. Milka and her husband David have been Manchester residents since 2007 and have a daughter, Mekyra, born and raised in Manchester.

Dr. John Walker, Member

John is an experienced pediatrician with the team at Manchester Pediatrics Associates in South Windsor, Connecticut. Dr. Walker has been in practice for more than 26 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Xavier University of Louisiana and graduated with his medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine. He then traveled to California and completed his pediatric internship at the Naval Hospital in San Diego and his pediatric residency at the Naval Hospital in Oakland. After his training, he became a staff pediatrician at the Naval Hospital in Twentynine Palms, California, and then moved to the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, Florida. Prior to working with the team at Manchester Pediatrics Associates, Dr. Walker worked at Kids Station Pediatrics in Manchester, Connecticut. Dr. Walker has been recognized for excellence in his field and was awarded the Compassionate Doctor Recognition & On-Time awards. Dr. Walker is affiliated with Connecticut Children's Medical Center.