Turkeys and smiles at Stern Village (SLIDESHOW)

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A friend is someone willing to lend a helping hand no matter the situation, regardless of the time of the year.

For John and Darby Ruby and residents of Stern Village, the bonds of friendship grow stronger every year; especially around Thanksgiving time, when the couple and village leaders get together to donate turkeys to give away to the housing authority’s low-income seniors.

That’s what made the scene in the village’s community room so special last Thursday, Nov. 19, as a number of residents waited to hear their names called during the second annual turkey raffle.

For 25 residents, the prize was an eight-pound turkey to enjoy during Thanksgiving; for everyone in the room, the reward was seeing the power of generosity and warmth firsthand.

“I get the chills every year when we do this,” said Harriet Polansky, executive director of Stern Village and the Trumbull Housing Authority. “It’s a blessing to have us all here and to have such incredible friends like John and Darby.”

Don Scinto, a Stern Village resident, and Paulette Mack, the resident service coordinator, presented the couple with the idea last year.

“They continue to go above and beyond,” Scinto said in his speech after all the turkeys were given away. “We wouldn’t be here without them.”

Thelma Burr, resident commissioner and a 25-year resident of Stern Village, led the ceremony with a Thanksgiving poem and waited until almost the very end to hear her name called.

First Selectman Tim Herbst participated in the giveaway, drawing names as Mack handed out the frozen birds.

The recently re-elected town official thanked the residents for voting for him in this year’s nail-biting election, which he won narrowly, by 352 votes.

“Thanks for putting me over the goal line two weeks ago,” he told the room before picking the first name.

Afterward, Herbst wished everyone in the room a happy and warm Thanksgiving.

John Ruby said he was honored that the first selectman wanted to “come to this small little party.”

He got too emotional to continue the rest of his speech, as Polansky and Scinto stepped in and thanked the Rubys for their help.

"We’re all so very grateful for their generosity," said Polansky. "This will make Thanksgiving extra special."