Making a difference, one family at a time

While The Day's coverage varies day to day, certain features are anticipated by readers. One can expect to see snow day fun in the winter, smiling seniors and tossed mortarboards in June, and from Thanksgiving to Christmas, one little section at the bottom of page A1 makes holidays a little brighter for area residents who are struggling.

The annual "Make a Difference" series, which just completed its 10th year, features an individual or family who could use a little help for the holidays, selected by one of more than two dozen local social services organizations.

In some cases, the featured people have disabilities that prevent them from working, or they experience a tragedy or other unexpected hardship that leads them to seek assistance. Whatever the case, the organization posts what they are looking for or need and how readers can donate.

The series is a newsroom-wide effort, with each reporter working around their other journalistic obligations to pick an organization or two, often but not always related to their beat. Some organizations even reach out to us before we set up the schedule to ask if they can submit a family for the series. Others are harder to track down, and every year the schedule changes several times as the entries come in or organizations join or sit out.

While it can be a logistical challenge, especially during a time when people are on vacation, the outcomes for the organizations and the families they serve are worth it.

Data from 2019 wasn't available at the time of printing, but in 2018, the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut collected more than $4,800 in cash, checks and gift card donations for their featured client, a single father undergoing cancer treatment who wanted to give his teenage daughter a proper Christmas despite his recovery.

And even the smallest contributions make a big impact. A family of seven featured by the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center framed a note they received from a donor who apologized for such a small donation because they were touched by the generosity of strangers.

The participating organizations repeatedly tell us they are amazed by that generosity and the opportunity Make a Difference gives them to highlight the needs of people in the community.

Organizations featured in Make a Difference in 2019

Alliance for Living

Always Home

Care and Share

Catholic Charities

Covenant Shelter

Drop-In Learning Center

Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut

Jonnycake Center

Madonna Place

Martin House

Montville Social Services

Mother's Retreat

New London Community Meal Center

New London Homeless Hospitality Center

Norwich Human Services

OIC of New London County

Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center

Reliance Health

Riverfront Children's Center

Safe Futures

Salvation Army

St. Vincent de Paul Place

Stonington Human Services

Thames River Family Program

The Arc Eastern Connecticut

Visiting Nurse Association of Southeastern Connecticut

WARM Center

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