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    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Norwich Salvation Army rings in high-demand season with new headquarters

    Mark Peake, social services case manager of The Salvation Army Norwich Service Unit, says “Happy holidays” to customers entering the store as he and his wife, Ana, ring their bells while staffing the Red Kettle Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 outside the Walmart in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mark Peake, social services case manager of The Salvation Army Norwich Service Unit, and his wife, Ana, ring their bells while staffing the Red Kettle Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 outside the Walmart in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mark Peake, social services case manager of The Salvation Army Norwich Service Unit, says “Happy holidays” to a customer entering the store as he and his wife, Ana, ring their bells while staffing the Red Kettle Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 outside the Walmart in Norwich. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mark Peake, social services case manager of The Salvation Army Norwich Service Unit, right, rings his bell and chats with John Oaken of Norwich, as Oaken places a donation in the Red Kettle Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 outside the Walmart in Norwich. Peak’s wife, Ana, a volunteer, not shown, was also ringing a bell. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mark Peake, social services case manager of The Salvation Army Norwich Service Unit, right, talks to Lordie Alphonse, of Norwich as she places a donation in the Red Kettle, while ringing his bell Friday, Nov. 25, 2022 outside the Walmart in Norwich. Peak’s wife, Ana, a volunteer, not shown, was also ringing a bell. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Norwich – Mark Peake stood outside the Norwich Walmart Friday, protected from the cold rain by a glass overhang, singing an occasional tune to punctuate his steady ringing of his Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive bell.

    His wife, Ana Peake, also rang a brass bell as she sat in a chair on the opposite side of the kettle. Shoppers smiled and dropped bills or change into the bin and exchanged holiday greetings and best wishes.

    Mark Peake, 61, of Groton, started working as the Norwich Salvation Army Service Unit’s social services case manager — the only staff at the local agency — in August. Ana Peake provides volunteer support.

    Mark Peake immediately became immersed in the agency’s mission of helping struggling families, preparing for the holiday rush, the Christmas season’s kettle drive fundraiser and now a move into new headquarters.

    A new floor was laid last week at the unit’s new headquarters at 429 W. Main St. in the West Gate shopping plaza. The office will open Dec. 7 and will offer general services to clientele and a food pantry for the first time in several years starting in early 2023, Peake said. The office will be open Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    The Salvation Army has been renting space at the Foundry 66 shared work space facility while preparing to open its new office.

    Along with the pending move, Peake is focusing on the annual Red Kettle drive, which runs through Dec. 23, and the agency’s Christmas family assistance program. This year, the Norwich Salvation Army hopes to assist families with 210 children for the holidays, along with helping families with daily needs, including food, rental assistance, utilities and emergency needs.

    This unit set a goal of raising $3,000 in the kettle drive. Peake said 90% of the money collected stays in the greater Norwich area. The Norwich service unit covers Norwich, Griswold, Preston, Lisbon and Montville. Red Kettl e drives will be held at the Norwich Stop & Shop supermarket and at Norwich and Lisbon Walmart stores. Online donations are accepted in the virtual kettle drive at bit.ly/NorwichRedKettle.

    Peake said he enjoys the in-person kettle drive.

    “You get to see the face of the Salvation Army,” he said.

    Peake is still looking for individuals, businesses or civic organizations to volunteer for shifts at the kettle drives at all three locations. For information or to volunteer, contact Peake at (860) 559- 2245.

    “Just two hours of your time, you could feed 12 hungry children,” Peake wrote in a news release promoting the Red Kettle drive. “As a bell ringer for our annual Red Kettle Campaign, you'll help us raise funds and bring hope and kindness to those in need.”

    Although the kettle drive started last week, the agency will hold an official kick-off event at 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2 outside Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway.

    Mayor Peter Nystrom and Salvation Army officials and supporters will be on hand for the hour-long kick-off event. Mayor Nystrom will volunteer as a bell ringer at the Norwich Stop & Shop, 70 Town St., later Friday morning.

    Peake said the Salvation Army has seen a surge in requests for oil, food and rental assistance statewide. Red Kettle funds are used to help local families with a wide range of services, he said.

    “By volunteering, you are directly helping individuals, children, and families in need throughout the year,” he said.

    Peake is new to the Salvation Army but not to the region. He and his wife live in Groton. Peake grew up in New London. He worked for 15 years as a substance abuse counselor in the region and worked for the past two years at the New London Homeless Hospitality Center. Peake said he became familiar with the Salvation Army as a counselor, because many clients were referred to the agency for assistance.

    “I was always interested in the Salvation Army,” Peake said, “and I saw the ad for the Norwich position and applied.”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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