Community Comes Together At Helping Hands Giveaways
Published: January 31st, 2023
By: Sarah Genter

Community comes together at Helping Hands giveaways A group of volunteers from NYCM, who helped package items, set up, and hand out items at the January giveaway night. The group was organized by longtime Helpings Hands volunteer and NYCM employee Sara Whaley. Several local organizations, businesses, agencies, and churches pitch in each month to support Helping Hands and their mission of giving back to the community. (Photo from the Helping Hands Facebook page)

NORWICH — Norwich-based nonprofit Helping Hands is continuing their mission to support area residents in the new year.

The organization holds monthly giveaway nights at the Norwich Family YMCA, where individuals can pick up free food, pantry items, dairy products, hygiene items, pet foods, and cleaning supplies, no questions asked.

Giveaways are held at 6 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, rain, shine, or snow. Visitors are welcome to attend by car or on foot and go through the stations of bagged items to collect what they need.

Story Continues Below Adverts

Founder Lorri Race said the organization is able to thrive thanks to the support and dedication of local volunteers and agencies, starting with the Norwich Family YMCA staff.

"We have so many businesses, agencies, and churches that support the community through Helping Hands," said Race.

"We appreciate the YMCA's continued support. Jamey Mullen and his staff help us throughout the month by taking in items that are donated and helping us with traffic in the parking lot on our giveaway nights, to name just a couple of the many things they do," she continued.

She said many other area businesses and agencies coordinate groups of volunteers to attend the monthly giveaways as well.

In January, longtime Helping Hands volunteer and NYCM employee Sara Whaley organized a group of volunteers from NYCM to attend the giveaway night. The group assisted with packing items, setting up, and handing out items during the giveaway.

"We have really opened new doors and continue to make adjustments that are best for our volunteers in the community," said Race. "For the new year I decided to have volunteers only come out one day a month. So now we pack the donated items and do the giveaway on the same night."

Additionally, Race said Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment (CIT) employees shops for needed items each month, which is organized by CIT employee Patti Barry.

Story Continues Below Adverts

Race said volunteer Patti Dietrich has been a huge help with organizing fundraising opportunities. One way she was able to support the organization is by setting up a sneaker drop box in the Norwich Family YMCA lobby.

Sneakers and cleats are collected in the bin, and then those that are in good condition are cleaned and given to those in need. Those that can't be reused are recycled, and Helping Hands receives a small amount of money for each pair of donated shoes, which helps them buy items for the giveaway nights.

"She does a great job finding creative ways to bring in money to buy needed items," said Race.

Many other organizations pitch in to further Helping Hands' mission, including Chobani, which sends the "Cho Truck" down to the giveaway night every month to hand out yogurt.

Local churches that participate in the monthly giveaways are cvFree Church, which donates breakfast food items each month; Emmanuel Episcopal Church gets involved by dropping off hot meals at the monthly giveaways; and members of the Broad Street United Methodist Church donate bottles of bleach every month.

"If it wasn’t for our supporters and volunteers, it wouldn’t be possible to do what we do," said Race. "I would like to give a very big thanks to everyone that supports us in one way or another!"

To lend a hand through volunteering, send a message to the Helping Hands Facebook page. To donate, click the Amazon Wish List link pinned to the top of the page.

Helping Hands 2023 Giveaway Nights:

All giveaway nights are held at 6 p.m. at the Norwich Family YMCA.

February 16

Story Continues Below Adverts

March 16

April 20

May 18

June 15

July 20

August 17

September 21

October 19

November 16

December 21