Providence, RI – When normal life gave way to COVID isolation last March, Rhode Island charities had to give up or rethink the fundraisers that were their life’s blood.

And yet, some charities found ways to continue their mission. Some thought up workarounds. Some found grants. Some found loyal donors willing to give more. Many found new donors who couldn’t let their neighbors suffer. One just happened to catch the eye of the world’s third-richest woman soon after she pledged to give away half her $55-billion fortune.

Christina Jagolinzer, 52, remembers Christmases as a child in state care. Now she’s a vice president at Tides Family Services, and her job at the nonprofit that works to keep families together is to make life better for more than 500 young people.

“When the electric bills come due, and there isn’t food on the table,” said Jagolinzer, who eventually was adopted, “it’s our responsibility to take care of these children.

“I’ve been known on Christmas Eve to drive around to shelters, making sure that each child had at least one gift to open.”

But how would her organization provide gifts without funds from its usual fundraisers? The old-fashioned way: by phone, grant application and social media. She lined up banks and other local sponsors and applied for a state grant designed to encourage outside events. People who had bought presents for one wish list took five this time, and challenged friends to try it, too.

Usually, Tides has a big party in a Boys and Girls Club, but in 2020, with COVID lurking, the party had to be a drive-thru.

Families who had filled out wish lists were invited to drive into the parking lot of the Pawtucket Tides office on Dexter Street in Pawtucket on the Monday before Christmas. One mother who saw Santa got in line, and she went home with gifts, too.

“What’s really, really special about this one,” Jagolinzer said, “is all the community partnership” that proved “we can come together to make sure everyone’s taken care of.”

Although it fell behind overall in 2020, Tides took in double the cash it had collected in 2019. Volunteers fulfilled 708 wish lists in 2020, compared with 300 in 2019.

What passed through car windows that day was 400 gift cards, 200 pizzas, 10,000 toys, 60 Amazon teen gift cards, 2,000 masks, 500 Safety First kits; 500 coats, 500 hats and mittens and other gifts. Plus 150 Thanksgiving baskets the month before. In all, the charity raised about $196,000, served 2,000 people and put on two school breakfasts and the drive-thru party.

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