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Pandemic causes outbreak of generosity

Updated: Feb 4, 2022

There's an untold story about the coronavirus pandemic — there has also been an outbreak of generosity. Despite rising unemployment, there has been a noteworthy rise in donations.

“We are heartened by the number of people who are looking for ways to help,” says Nancy Carlson, the volunteer and outreach manager at Gifts of Love in Avon. “They are donating financially in record numbers, stepping forward to hold critical food drives, and volunteering their time in unexpected ways.”

In the past three-plus months, Gifts of Love has had about 80 new donors whose gifts have totaled over $10,000. This is in addition to the regular donors who continue to support this vital nonprofit. Online donations have increased dramatically in numbers and size. 

“Those donations are critical if we are to keep up with the increasing need as more people lose their jobs due to the pandemic,” says Carlson.

The generosity also extends to the number of people reaching out to hold food drives.  As news of the increased need for food assistance has risen, people have been looking for ways to help. The result is a record number of food drives to feed Gifts of Love’s rapidly increasing base of clients.

“The number and size of the food drives have increased,” says food pantry coordinator Michael Olivieri. “Among those sponsoring them on our behalf were Boy Scout Troop 274, Farmington Woods, Keller Williams Realty, KinderCare in Granby, Simsbury Crew and Valley Community Baptist Church, to name just a few. Those drives have brought in 7,000 pounds of food and $7,500 in gift cards and donations. It’s been heartening to see our community reach out to so many people in need.”

In addition to the 900-plus people Gifts of Love serves monthly, the client base has increased 10% as more and more people lose their jobs or have their hours cut back due to the COVID shutdown.

“We’ve had to up our game to keep up,” says Carlson.  “With the help of our neighbors, we are determined not to turn away anyone who’s in need and comes to us for help.”

“We are heartened by the number of people who are looking for ways to help.” — Nancy Carlson • Gifts of Love

Due to social distancing, Gifts of Love has had to discontinue its practice of having clients chose their own housewares, clothes and food. Instead, volunteers are pre-packing bags of food for pickup by clients, and the nonprofit has discontinued clothing and housewares distribution for now. 

“While choice is an important part of giving help with dignity, the need to keep our clients, volunteers and staff safe has meant that we can’t have people in the building,” says Carlson. 

Gifts of Love has also changed the way it conducts the popular school backpack program. In normal times, the nonprofit has delivered 300-plus backpacks weekly during the school year to carry students and their families through the weekend with meals, snacks and juice. When schools closed in March, the program continued — packages were delivered to nine participating schools, which then delivered them to students’ homes.

This year, for the first time, Gifts of Love is continuing that program through the summer, dropping off weekend food packages at schools in Avon, Canton, Farmington, Simsbury, New Britain, West Hartford and two magnet schools.

The community has risen to the occasion as more and more people have volunteered to deliver these backpacks. Others have volunteered at the Gifts of Love Farm in Simsbury and the main food pantry in Avon.

“The stories of the tragic impact of this ongoing pandemic have touched our hearts,” says Carlson. “The generosity of our neighbors has been remarkable. Perhaps that is the silver lining in all of this. We are all in this together, and clearly many people have accepted responsibility to help us all get through this."

For over three decades, Gifts of Love has responded to the needs of working individuals and their families who have been impacted by financial crises — providing short-term programs and education to help these families attain financial independence. The Gifts of Love Farm is a certified-organic educational farm that provides clients with fresh produce and serves the community with ongoing educational programs, incubator farming, internship programs and organic produce.

To donate financially, hold a food drive, contribute food or volunteer — contact Denise Phillips at Gifts of Love:

Source — Gifts of Love


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