NORWICH – Although the former fifth ward school on East Main Street currently sits empty and in desperate need of rehabilitation, the vacant property is being seen in a new light by one local woman who hopes to transform the building into a refuge for the county’s homeless.
City resident Sharon Martinez, founder and sole operator of the Norwich-based not-for-profit organization Isaiah 58 Ministries, Inc., has had sights set on the building for more than two years. She’s reaching out to the community through a series of fundraising campaigns in the effort to raise the $299,000 needed for the purchase of the property. The goal, she said, is to provide a safe haven that also teaches self-sufficiency to those who need it most.
The challenge, explained Martinez, is helping those in need while still saving to buy the property. Her organization has brought in only a few thousand dollars since its incorporation in 2010, and “money has been going out as fast as it’s coming in,” she said, noting regular donations given over the years. To keep the good-will agency afloat, Martinez has been forfeiting her own monthly disability support and social security to reach out to others.