WARREN - Many holiday fundraisers focus on the major holidays, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and not necessarily Valentine's Day. Well, Trish Mikulan is aiming to change that.
For two years, the Employer Relations Coordinator at Trumbull Business College has organized a community fundraiser called "Have a Heart," which is designed to raise money and package cookie gift bags that are then distributed to area charities on Valentine's Day.
Monetary donations were collected from Feb. 1 through Thursday, while cookies were donated from Trumbull Business College students and faculty, as well as community members.
This year's event will donate roughly 150 wrapped cookie bags to Someplace Safe, the Riverbend Center and The Christy House, facilities devoted to helping victims of domestic violence, people suffering from mental health crisis and the homeless.
Mikulan said that a major loss in her own life inspired her to help other people who may be struggling alone on a day dedicated to partnership.
"I lost my husband several years ago, and I thought about how I didn't want people to feel the way I did at that time," Mikulan said. "So I figured what better places to help then these local charities."
This year's event was a collaborative effort by Trumbull Business College Scholastic Fraternity-Tau Beta Chi (TBX) and Howland High School's Howland Interact Club. Members from both organizations assisted with the packaging of gift bags.
TBX member Tiffany Marteney said that Thursday's event offered her organization, which volunteers for a number of community events every year, a chance to help out on a day that many overlook.
"I think that when people think of holidays and helping people, they really don't think of Valentine's Day as one of the important ones," Marteney said. "So we were excited to be able to partner with (Mikulan and Howland Interact) to help people for this fundraiser."
Mikulan's niece, Howland High School sophomore Alexis James, volunteered her time with the event.
A 2013 honoree of the Tribune Chronicle's "Twenty Under Twenty" award for her devotion to community service, James said that the event has already grown considerably from where it was just one year ago.
"We did this last year, but it was definitely on a smaller scale," Alexis said. "We worked out of our home, and we only were packing in one cookie in a bag. We're able to do a lot more this year (by partnering with TBC and TBX)."
Mikulan said that both she and fellow volunteer Roxanne Torella, of Niles, will be making to trip to all three facilities to distribute the money and gift bags to those in need.
"I know that the fun part is going to be when we get to pass out all of these gift bags, because I think I get just as excited as they do," Mikulan said. "It really made everyone's day last year, because no one really ever expects to get anything like this on Valentine's Day."