The team at the Lymes' Youth Service Bureau has never seen an event impact the area like COVID-19.
"It is unprecedented to see how devastating the shutdowns can be on a family so quickly," said Mary Seidner, director of the LYSB.
While some people have been hit hard by the ripple effects of the pandemic overnight, Seidner said that she has also never seen the community respond just as fast.
"As soon as the shutdowns were starting, people contacted me asking how can they help," said Seidner.
The LYSB set up a charitable coronavirus relief fund to help support the residents of the towns of Old Lyme and Lyme. The fund is fueled by community donations. The donations then go back to the community to help people in need.
Two Old Lyme business partners were the first to donate and kickstart the fund. Richard Stout and Thomas Britt, co-owners of Benchmark Wealth Management, started a challenge grant. They made the promise to match every dollar donated, up to $10,000.
"If you are ever in the position to help someone and it does not put yourself or your family at harm, you are required to help that person," said Britt, of their decision to help.
The challenge was quickly crushed by the townspeople of Old Lyme and Lyme.
"We surpassed that immediately," said Seidner.
The coronavirus relief fund has now reached more than $70,000 and helped more than 60 people across the two towns.
“We did not expect that number to ever be reached," said Stout. "It is wonderful."
"We were absolutely elated," said Britt.
The donations have come in all amounts and from more than 100 sources. A lot of the money was donated by regular people who wanted to find a way to help.
"I cannot imagine that if I was in a position to have no job and limited savings, what it would be like to put a meal on my table and support my family," said David Hickie, an Old Lyme resident, explaining why his family donated. "I think it is important that we all come together."
People can sign up for help at this link. The LYSB is working alongside Lyme and Old Lyme social services to review requests, call people who have reached out and get them connected to the resources they need.
According to Seidner, funds have been used so far to help buy gift cards for grocery stores, pay for fuel and even help people pay rent. She said that donations are still coming in daily. She expects the need will last much longer.
"We are going to see requests for help for quite some time," said Seidner.
The goal is to help people meet various financial needs, while, in the process, helping people meet much more basic human needs.
"I think in a time of need it helps to know that neighbors, maybe even neighbors they don't know, are thinking about them," said Stout.
"It just goes to show that, at the end of the day, we care about each other," said Hickie.
Donations are still being accepted at this link.