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380 families receive food in Norwich in memory of Jason Vincent

Norwich — Danielle Vincent has been heartened by the outpouring of love and respect for her son, Jason Vincent, and when she learned Norwich leaders were planning a food distribution event in his memory, she donated and said the family wanted to help.

“Jason would be so happy about this,” she said, in between loading boxes of food and packages of eggs into vehicles at the drive-thru food distribution Thursday at the Rose City Senior Center. “He’s smiling down at us.”

Jason Vincent, president of the Norwich Community Development Corp., died Dec. 30 in a suicide in West Virginia. His death shocked city and business leaders who had worked closely with him, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danielle Vincent of Moosup said her family has received “so many” testimonials, cards and letters since Jason’s death. “It makes you feel good. He was such a good person,” she said.

Cars lined up more than a half-hour early along Mahan Drive, and since the food boxes, packed with apples, onions, carrots, stuffing mix and canned goods, and pallets containing frozen turkeys and cartons of eggs were laid out and ready, police and volunteers opened the two distribution lines early.

By the end of the 90-minute session, 380 families received the food. Each box was adorned with a small sticker with Vincent’s photo. “In Loving Memory of Jason Vincent. Sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Peter Nystrom and the Family & Friends of Jason Vincent.”

Organizers raised more than $2,200 for the event. The Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Bank purchased and boxed the food and transported it to the senior center, where more than three dozen volunteers, including several Vincent family members and friends, city officials and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, helped distribute it.

“I am honored to be here,” Bysiewicz said. “This is such a wonderful thing. Jason was so deserving.”

Bysiewicz said the long lines of vehicles coming for food at this one-time event shows the extent of the need throughout the state. The special distribution event was added to the weekly Connecticut Food Bank/Foodshare distributions in Norwich that start at 9 a.m. each Monday at the former Foxwoods employee parking lot at 28 Stonington Road-Route 2.

Nystrom said he scheduled the Jason Vincent memorial distribution for the afternoon to ensure that people who cannot make it to the morning event would have the chance to receive food.

On Thursday morning, Rebecca Alberts, co-owner of These Guys Brewing, pledged $500 for a second distribution in Vincent’s honor, and Nystrom said he and his wife, Linda, will match that to start the fundraising for a second event.

Donations can be made directly to the United Way by texting the word “Gemma” to 41444 and adding a note that the donation is for the Jason Vincent memorial food drive.

Nystrom said the second event will be scheduled for April, after the weekly Monday distributions in Norwich have ended.

“We’ll be back,” Danielle Vincent said of the family’s participation.

c.bessette@theday.com

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