Kindness in Real Life: Teen launches campaign that raises $3,000 for local homeless shelter

Hannah Mangiafico, 13, of Hebron recently delivered a $3,000 donation to the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. A church youth group trip and a dollar from her pastor inspired her to start a GoFundMe campaign to support the shelter. Mangiafico met with Cathy Zall, director of the center, to deliver the donation. (photo courtesy of Rob Mangiafico)
Hannah Mangiafico, 13, of Hebron recently delivered a $3,000 donation to the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. A church youth group trip and a dollar from her pastor inspired her to start a GoFundMe campaign to support the shelter. Mangiafico met with Cathy Zall, director of the center, to deliver the donation. (photo courtesy of Rob Mangiafico)

A church youth group tour of the New London Hospitality Center in November netted the shelter a $3,000 donation after one of the teens was inspired by her visit to help.

Hannah Mangiafico, 13, of Hebron, attends St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hebron. She said her youth group had toured the shelter and was sad to see how many people were living without housing. At the next service, her pastor, the Rev. Ron Kolanowski, had given her and her peers each a dollar or two and asked them to make something from it. After seeing the people at the NLHHC, who had little to no belongings and nowhere to go, she wanted to turn her money into a larger donation for the shelter.

Hannah’s father, Rob, said they used her dollar to start a GoFundMe campaign, with an initial goal of $1,000, chosen because the NLHHC said $500 could pay for one month’s rent for someone. They also set stretch goals to help purchase furnishings for people who recently found housing and provide emergency shelter for those who need it. The campaign quickly picked up steam with donations from family, friends and strangers who saw it on social media; GoFundMe also chose Hannah as a “hero kid” for her campaign and donated $1,000.

Barbara Nagy, communications and development manager at NLHHC, said the Mangiaficos came to the shelter on Dec. 28 to deliver a check for $3,000, which would cover the first month’s rent for two people, furniture for two people and emergency shelter for a week for five people. She said she was skeptical at first about the idea, but she was thoroughly impressed by Hannah’s work.

“We were just so thrilled by this,” Nagy said. “It’s a really challenging time for nonprofits and social services agencies, and people this fall have been really supportive of us in so many ways and it’s so humbling.”

Hannah said she hadn’t expected so many people to donate, especially people she didn’t know, and it was “really nice and cool to see” the generosity of everyone, even strangers. It was very cold the day she delivered the check, and there were a lot of people both inside the shelter and outside; she said it was a telling moment for how much the NLHHC was doing for people in need.

Rob said that from the angle of a parent, it was neat to see Hannah’s project grow, and it wouldn’t have happened without going on the tour that day or to church that week.

“It really just started with a dollar and an idea,” he said.

The GoFundMe page is still open to help support the shelter through the cold winter months.

Kindness in Real Life is a regular feature in which we encourage writers to tell about kind acts being done in the community. To submit your own story and photos, email Lee Howard at l.howard@theday.com.

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