RIDGEFIELD, CT - The Salvation Army Ridgefield/Redding Service Unit, in partnership with Ridgefield Social Services, has seen a dramatic uptick in new applications from residents looking for assistance. More than 80 new applications have come in over the last couple of months, which can be attributed to unemployment and reduced work hours. The United Way has estimated that 3% of Ridgefield residents live in poverty and 19% are considered to be ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, but employed).
Many have applied for a new program called Ridgefield Responds, which assists with rent payments. The program, which was set up in March, has awarded tens of thousands of dollars for renters impacted by COVID-19. Food pantry needs continue to grow as well. “Our pantry has shifted to taking online donations,” said Tony Phillips, Social Services Director in Ridgefield & Salvation Army Community Service Representative. “We are also distributing gift cards instead of non-perishable food.” Restaurants, including Wooster Hollow Café, 859, Dimitris Diner and Nature’s Temptation, have helped with gift cards and free or reduced-cost meals.
The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Dept has assembled and delivered over 80 food boxes, each built to provide between 30-35 meals, to the Ridgefield/Redding Service Unit for distribution in Ridgefield. An additional 166 boxes have been delivered for distribution throughout other Fairfield County Salvation Army Service Unit communities. With the growing need, Our EDS Dept. is continually working to secure the food from multiple sources, and also assemble and then distribute hundreds of these food boxes to hard hit areas each week.
“Shortly after it became obvious that the pandemic was growing exponentially, I reached out to my contacts to see how The Salvation Army could support their community,” said Kathy Orfitelli, Service Extension Director for The Salvation Army’s Southern New England Division. “As food was the greatest need, the offer of the food boxes was received with extreme gratitude, as if a weight had been lifted. My response was simple ‘it’s what we do. We are here for you.’ The Salvation Army will stand alongside our neighbors as long as we are needed.”
The Salvation Army Service Unit has also assisted people having difficulty accessing unemployment, stimulus checks and small business loans. The Ridgefield Town website and the Ridgefield Library have been a helpful resource in coordinating and sharing information through websites and newsletters. “We are always in motion searching for gaps in service and finding ways to plug them quickly and efficiently,” said Phillips. “We hope to be able to meet the needs in the coming days and weeks and will work hard to make that happen.”
There are 37 Service Units in Connecticut comprised of local professionals who lend their expertise to The Salvation Army. Social Service Directors, such as Tony Phillips, are trained and authorized to provide assistance on behalf of The Salvation Army to worthy clients who at times, due to unique circumstances, do not qualify for typical resources. All assistance is provided by donations which may be supplemented by an annual Red Kettle Campaign as is promoted in Ridgefield. In total, The Salvation Army has responded to COVID – 19 locally by providing food boxes in Fairfield County totaling 7,380 meals. An additional 2,700 meals have been provided in other Service Unit communities, and that number, 10,080, will grow as The Salvation Army expands its services.
The Salvation Army is anticipating a significant increase in emergency assistance for low-wage employees who have been temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus. Types of additional support will include utility and rent/mortgage assistance, along with food for families in need. Our EDS department is coordinating with state and local leads to determine gap feeding needs for vulnerable populations across the state. 208 Volunteers has assisted with the effort.
From March 23rd to April 20th, The Salvation Army in CT has served:
For Connecticut: Text GIVECT to 71777
For Rhode Island: Text GIVERI to 71777