By Breana Pitts

WILMINGTON (CBS) — A Wilmington woman is working hard to make sure essential workers in her community feel appreciated during the COVID-19 outbreak. Christina Bentley created Wilmington Cares, a Facebook group dedicated to collecting gift cards from local restaurants which are then put into handwritten thank-you cards, and mailed out to essential workers in the Wilmington community.

“After a couple of days of sitting here, I’m like how can we do something? We are able to stay home, be safe, and do that while other people are out there throwing themselves at the front lines. Nurses, doctors, techs, delivery people, mail, fire, police, and grocery store employees. For those people who are doing it, I wanted to give back,” said Bentley, who has been a Wilmington resident for most of her life.

Initially, Bentley wanted about 15 or 20 people to pool some money together.

“I’ve had people donate hundreds of stamps and thank you cards, writing out the thank you cards for me, realtors helping search addresses for me,” Bentley said.

The WIlmington Cares 2 Facebook Group has sent hundreds of restaurant gift cards to essential workers in the community .(Photo Via Wilmington Cares 2 Facebook)

In eleven days, close to 800 people have signed up to help. The group has raised $16,000 and sent out close to 500 individual gift cards from about two dozen restaurants in town. They have also delivered dozens of baby monitors to local nurses, an in-demand item for monitoring COVID-19 patients from a safe distance.

“It’s helping local restaurants who now can only open their doors for takeout; a few of them are now running out of gift cards. I have had them contribute extra gift cards. I have had them reach out and say, ‘Can we help you feed this family without purchasing more gift cards? We would love to donate a meal to a family in need.’ It has been amazing. When people they get their thank you card in the mailbox they say how it turned their day around and how positive of an experience it was. It’s been really nice,” Bentley told WBZ.

Hundreds of WIlmington residents have been sent gift cards to local restaurants. (Via WIlmington Cares 2 Facebook page)

She said this experience has brought the Wilmington community closer together.

“It’s something everybody needed in that moment; everybody needed to focus on something positive. If we can help make you feel any better at all, we have done our job. The other amazing thing is, I’ve been here for most of my life in town and I’ve met so many people through this, whether it be online or people stopped to drop things off or restaurant owners, how many amazing people we have here in Wilmington. It’s heartwarming.”

If you would like to nominate a Wilmington resident to receive a thank-you card you can reach out to Bentley at the Wilmington Cares 2 Facebook page or send her an email at chrissy5050@hotmail.com. To make a monetary donation, send a Venmo payment to chrissy5050, or contact her via email to set up a cash or check exchange.

Breana Pitts

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