Nearly 500 Newark families were able to put food on the table this Christmas, thanks to the Newark Area Welfare Committee and donations from community members.
Last week, NAWC mailed out Acme gift cards – ranging from $50 to $150, depending on family size – to families in need, totaling more than $37,000.
The gift card distribution was a continuation of NAWC’s annual holiday food box program. In what has become an enduring tradition in Newark for decades, the organization recruits schools and other groups to hold food drives and then gathers dozens of people to pack the food into boxes for distribution to more than 300 families a few days before Christmas. Because most of the food is donated, the effort usually only costs NAWC $6,000.
This year, however, the pandemic made holding food drives and packing the boxes impractical, so the organization instead pivoted to a plan to supply gift cards. That required a massive fundraising campaign.
The organization was able to raise $34,000 in seven weeks, including $10,000 from the Newark New Century Club; $10,000 from Albertsons, Acme’s parent company; and $5,500 from National 5 and 10 and the Handloff family. The rest came from smaller donations, and the remaining funds came from money NAWC already had on hand.
“It’s just phenomenal, raising that much money for a specific project in that short time period,” said Polly Sierer, immediate past president of NAWC. “We just have such generous people in the Greater Newark area.”
NAWC mailed gift cards to everyone living in Newark Housing Authority properties, as well as residents of Main Towers, a senior living facility on Main Street. Other recipients were suggested by the Hudson State Service Center, Newark Senior Center and the Hispanic ministry at Holy Angels Church.
A total of 485 families received assistance, approximately 130 more than in a typical year.
“There are more people in need for food than there has ever been,” Sierer said. “Typically, many of them were people that have never been in need before in their lives, that have had a job and for some reason lost it during COVID or are caregivers. This is a new need for them that they have never experienced.”
Meanwhile, NAWC is still looking for donations to its COVID-19 relief fund, which helps the ever-growing number of people who need assistance with rent and utility bills.
Donors can contribute online at www.newarkareawelfare.org or send checks to PO Box 951, Newark, DE 19715-0951.
People in need should contact the Hudson State Service Center, which can refer them to NAWC and other resources in the community. The center is located at 501 Ogletown Road, between Wawa and the U.S. Post Office, and can be reached at 302-283-7500.