The Day's Make A Difference has begun
In the years the WARM Center in Westerly has participated in The Day's annual Make a Difference series, its director has seen how uplifted people are when they receive gifts and know that those donations came from the community.
"They realize people really do care about what is happening, and it makes a tremendous difference," said Russ Partridge, executive director at the WARM Center.
The Day's annual holiday series, now in its 11th year, begins today and will share a story each day of an individual or family in the region and ways to help them. Overall, about 30 organizations are expected to participate.
From meals and warm coats, to gas cards that helped a family get back on its feet, and an electronic device that enabled a mother in the hospital to communicate with her family, representatives of the organizations shared how the donations from readers touched people's lives last year.
The mother, Joselaine of Norwich, was working hard until she ended up getting a pulmonary infection that led to sepsis, Gomes said. She has been hospitalized for the past year and a half.
Through donations, relatives were able to buy food for Joselaine’s two children, who also received Christmas gifts. Joselaine got hygiene items, a nightgown and an iPad so she could contact her family while in the hospital. She also was "overwhelmed" by the cards and personal notes people sent to her.
Gomes said she couldn't believe the generosity of the community, which gave more than $3,000 in donations. “The outpouring was just tremendous for this family,” she said. “People were just very moved and very generous.”
A multitude of gas and gift cards donated last holiday season to Covenant Shelter, which provides shelter to families and individuals and assists them in finding housing, helped families throughout the year, Executive Director Phyllis Cappuccio said. The organization received so many gas cards, it was able to save them for more families and just recently gave its last one to a family.
The family of four planned to join relatives in Ohio for the holidays and settle there, and all they needed was a gas card, she said. Thanks to the gas card, the family can now be on their way.
The gift cards help families as they move out of Covenant Shelter into their own apartments, Cappuccio said. "They'll have food when they get home. They’ll have milk in the fridge," she said. "It really does make a difference."
Marie, a mother to two young sons who had lost her job, was referred by Thames River Family Program.
People donated items that she didn't have the budget for, including boots for her son, then 5, and a winter coat and warm pajamas for her other son, then 7 months, said Shanda Easley, program manager. The family also got gift cards, so she could buy food.
Through the donations, Marie was able to fulfill basic needs for her children and they also got to open some gifts for Christmas.
"It was a great blessing," Easley said. She reported that today the children are doing well and Marie has secured employment.
A couple in their 30s, Jason and Ada — referred by the New London Homeless Hospitality Center — needed items to set up their new apartment, including pots and pans, a coffee pot and a bed, said Barbara Montrose, director of development and communications. A year later, they're doing well and living in their furnished apartment.
"Through this we’re able to really bring in some nice donations and get people established in nice homes," she said.
Kathleen Stauffer, chief executive officer of The Arc New London County, said in a voicemail that people served by The Arc have received gift cards for food and clothing, cash for gas money, sheet sets, toys, pots and pans, hats and mittens, and blankets. They also have received iPads, which allow them to connect and read books on devices that talk to them "so they can have a richer, more involved, more engaged life."
She said the people are extremely grateful for the support, and those items make a big difference when a fixed income doesn't leave a lot for extras, or anything nowadays.
"The generosity of New London County has just been amazing and has changed lives," she said. "It is one of our favorite times of the year, not just because of the holidays, but because the generosity and the good will of the community just really lights up the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."