Colorful puzzle pieces are lining storefronts in downtown Norwich this month thanks to a group of Norwich Free Academy students.
"We wanted to find a way to bring Norwich back together as a community because during the pandemic, it was kind of lost," said Ella Bean, a sophomore and a member of NFA's Project Outreach.
Project Outreach is a student volunteer organization on campus.
“It’s all about community, the impact on community and being involved," said Jodi Savage, coordinator of the group.
Project Outreach students were looking for a way to connect with the community during the pandemic. They decided to launch 'We're All a Piece of Norwich.'
The students printed out puzzle pieces and gave them to different schools and community organizations. They asked people to decorate the puzzle pieces to celebrate the uniqueness and unity of the community.
“A puzzle piece to me means a part of a whole. Like they come together to make a bigger picture," said Annika Savage, a senior at NFA.
The response was overwhelming. The students received 687 decorated puzzle pieces back. They spent several days cutting the pieces out, taping them together and hanging them up in downtown Norwich businesses.
The puzzle pieces vary. Some pieces feature drawings of popular Norwich attractions. Several puzzle pieces are decorated with roses for the Rose City. Other pieces have more meaningful messages about body positivity or the Black Lives Matter movement.
The students worked with the Greater Norwich Area Chamber of Commerce on the project.
"It is a great way to show that we are still connected because every single puzzle piece is single. You don’t know what it is. But put it together, it creates a big picture," said Angela Adams, executive director of the chamber.
In addition to the uplifting message, Adams hopes that everyone who decorated a puzzle piece will visit downtown and support a local business.
“If we can get 687 people to come downtown for the month of April, kicking off with first Friday, it would be a great way for people to know what is downtown, but it also gets you outside," said Adams.
The students said they are grateful that so many people took the time to decorate a puzzle piece. They hope everyone takes away a larger message: "No matter what, you are a piece of Norwich and a part of this community."