Norwich Community Helps Salvation Army ‘Rescue Christmas'

Thanks to community fundraising, the Salvation Army is providing nearly 200 Norwich children with presents this Christmas.

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The Salvation Army Southern New England Division started off the season knowing their job would be difficult this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has left more people in need of help and others too cash-strapped to give a donation. They coined their campaign for 2020, "Rescue Christmas." In Norwich, at least, it worked.

“I think even though people may have less this year, they are feeling grateful for whatever they do have and they want to help their neighbor in need," said Kathy Orfitelli, service extension director.

When the Norwich community learned of the need, Orfitelli said that people stepped up. Helms Media Group sponsored a holiday food drive for the Salvation Army, bringing in upwards of $1,500 and enough food to supplement 35 food boxes for families, according to Orfitelli.

In addition to the community drive, they received countless donations from individuals hoping to help.

“Everytime we get to a place like 'oh no, what are we going to do?', it is almost like five minutes later someone comes in and is like 'we have gifts for you,'" said Orfitelli.

The help came from unexpected places.

“One of the people who has been a significant donor for us is actually out of work," said Orfitelli.

Sue Evarts was laid off in the beginning of the pandemic. It has been a tough year, but she says, “If I didn’t do something for someone else it would have been a lot tougher.”

Evarts, who lives in Gales Ferry, took to Facebook when she learned that some children were on a wait list for gifts in Norwich. She was able to fundraise more than $600 from friends.

"This, no pun intended, has been my salvation," said Evarts.

When the Salvation Army did not have a place to distribute the gifts and food, the Foundry 66 building in Downtown Norwich offered the space.

"Norwich came through in a big way," said Orfitelli. "It has really been a beautiful thing to see."

Nearly 200 children will receive at least two gifts. The Salvation Army is also providing upwards of 80 families with food boxes, a gift card and free coats.

Teresa Vega said that the help means a lot during a tough year.

"I can't wait to see his expressions on his face," said Vega, of her young son who will be receiving a scooter and books on Christmas.

Statewide, the Salvation Army surpassed its COVID adjusted goal by more than $12,000. However, they are still down about $106,000 compared to last year. They are still accepting donations.

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