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 percent of Ridgefield residents live in poverty and 19 percent 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.

Online donations

“Our pantry has shifted to taking online donations,” said Tony Phillips, town social services director in Ridgefield and Salvation Army community service representative. “We are also distributing gift cards instead of nonperishable 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) Department has assembled and delivered over 80 food boxes, each built to provide between 30 to 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, the Salvation Army’s EDS Department 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,” she said. “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.”

Service units

There are 37 Salvation Army 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.

The Salvation Army’s EDS Department is coordinating with state and local leaders to determine gaps and feeding needs for vulnerable populations across the state. Some 208 volunteers have assisted with the effort.

Since March 23, The Salvation Army in Connecticut has served 6,264 individuals with: 714 meals; 1,905 food boxes; 9,639 food bags; made 1,011 food deliveries; and provided emotional and spiritual care to 346 people.

To donate to The Salvation Army’s effort: For Connecticut: Text GIVECT to 71777.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army annually helps nearly 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardships through a range of social services, a press release said. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need, The Salvation Army is doing good at 7,600 centers of operation around the country, it said.

In the first-ever listing of “America’s Favorite Charities” by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Salvation Army ranked as the country’s largest privately funded, direct-service nonprofit. For more information, visit ctri.SalvationArmy.org.