This Christmas was magical for three young boys and their grandmother, who works as a waitress to support them.
The family received everything on their Christmas wish list, including a microwave oven, flannel sheets and supermarket gift cards, as well as Hot Wheels toys, Legos and crayons for the children, all from donations, according to Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center Director Vicki Anderson.
The boys, ages 7, 5 and 3, can also visit Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium and the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center all year with their grandmother at no cost, as those organizations donated family memberships.
"Being exposed to those wonderful kinds of organizations can really change a young person's life," Anderson said.
"It made their Christmas," she added about the donations.
Kathleen and her grandsons were a family featured in the "Make a Difference" series in The Day, an annual holiday initiative in which organizations share the stories of individuals in the region. Readers can contribute gifts and funds to benefit those individuals by contacting the listed agency.
Several of the 23 organizations that participated said they received a significant response from readers.
One individual, Vivian, who lost her job while recovering from being hit by a car in New London, received pajamas, slippers, a bathrobe, bath supplies and gift cards that brightened her holiday, said Lori Sadosky, program supervisor of Norwich-based Martin House, which provides housing and social services.
"She was ... on a cloud nine," said Sadosky. "She could not believe people could be so kind."
When Sadosky asked Vivian how her Christmas was, she responded: "Mine was the best."
"I admire her so much - her courage and her strength," Sadosky said. "She is a remarkable woman."
Mystic Area Shelter & Hospitality received $2,500 to benefit its transportation fund, so Kimberly, a 32-year-old single mother of three, could purchase and register a used car. She needs to continue to travel to her job, but her car had stopped working. The next step is for social workers to help Kimberly to purchase a car in good shape, said office manager Pam Mola.
One family with three children received thousands of dollars in donations that will help pay the family's bills. One of the children has acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Patricia, the mother, received $4,400 in gift cards and cash, which will help pay the medical co-payments and cost of gas for her son's doctor visits, said Rosalinda Bazinet, the site supervisor for Catholic Charities.
Although the economy may be challenging, the holiday spirit was still present, Bazinet said.
"The outpouring was just great," she said.