'Make a Difference' series kicks off the giving season

The Day's annual Make a Difference series begins its 12th year today, marking more than a decade of community generosity for neighbors in need.

The client selected last year by Martin House was a young man who came to the Norwich-based organization after his roommate moved out of their apartment and he couldn't keep up with rent.

Cara-Lynn Turner, development assistant at Martin House, said the man asked for clothing, personal hygiene supplies and other household goods for his apartment. A "phenomenal artist" who paints and draws, he also asked for art supplies because they're very expensive and not easily accessible for someone on a limited income.

"The outpouring during the holiday season, it's just mind-blowing," she said, noting that one family in particular visited Martin House at least three times to drop off donations for the client.

"Oh my goodness, every time they came, we were in awe of what they were doing," she said. "You normally don't see that."

The man received enough new clothing to create a new wardrobe and was very humble and grateful in receiving so much support. Turner said he also got to meet some of the donors, including a father and daughter who dropped off art supplies because she also enjoys making art.

Madonna Place chose a single mother of three who had lost her job because she didn't have reliable transportation. The family had just moved to a new apartment on the bus line, and the mother was looking for a new job and wanted to fix her car.

Executive Director Nancy Gentes said the mother had asked for money and gift cards for bus tickets, gas, groceries and items for the kids, and a mix of returning and new donors came out to support the family. She said the turnout was "just fabulous" and, since then, the mother started a new job, got her car fixed and is back on her feet.

Gentes said Madonna Place received so many donations that it was able to fulfill the family's requests and put extra money into the client flex fund, which supports clients who have financial needs not met by other funding sources.

Safe Futures' selected client, a single mother of three who had escaped a brutal attack by her husband in the summer of 2017, had been struggling to recover emotionally, physically and financially. Community resources coordinator Susan Noyes said the response was "heartwarming and generous."

"Her endless gratitude flowed with her tears as the cash, gift cards, gifts for her children, and beautiful cards and letters of support arrived in response to her story appearing in the Day," she said in an email. "The kindness of strangers is underrated."

Noyes said the Make a Difference series brings crucial support to families in need as well as joy to the donors; she said many donor families get their kids involved to learn about the importance of community outreach.

"The joy and delight on the faces of donors, hearing their personal stories, and throughout the holiday season, surrounded in a spirit of caring has a huge positive impact on our community," she said.

This year's Make a Difference compacts will run daily at the bottom of the front page and online at theday.com.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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