19 Days and the power of “keeping it local”
In late November 2013, a customer named Noel visited Dan and Whit’s General Store in Norwich. “She said the shelves at the Haven’s food pantry were almost bare—she was buying food to bring over,” recalls co-owner Dan Fraser. “I remember thinking ‘there’s got to be something we can do too.’” Dan started by matching the food Noel purchased that day. And in a moment of true inspiration, Dan decided that Dan and Whit’s would donate 1% of its profits from December 1 through December 19 to the Haven. Then Dan asked other local businesses to join him.
Thus, was born the 19 Days of Norwich (now expanded to “the Valley”). Since the first year that raised around $28,000, businesses and community members across the Upper Valley have come together each winter to support the Haven so we can help the people in our region challenged by poverty, hunger, and homelessness.
“19 Days of the Valley shows how ‘keeping it local’ and neighbors helping neighbors can make us a stronger community,” says Dan. Over the past eight years, 19 Days has added events and activities, including an online auction and a pet contest. “Everyone finds a way to participate,” he notes.
With Dan being Dan, one thing led to another, generating enthusiasm to buy local and support our community. And it’s fun! Angels (in robes with wings and halos) sighted on the Ledyard Bridge, the “Bonding of the Beauticians” contest between three Norwich hair salons to raise the most money, wine tastings, petting zoos, favorite pet contests, pancake breakfasts—you name it, Dan was ready to try it to make a difference.
19 Days has been a huge success. “One percent isn’t a huge amount, but it adds up,” Dan continues. Dan persuaded philanthropist Dorothy Byrne to match the 19 Days donations to inspire more people to give to the Haven. And each year, 19 Days raised more money for the Haven. The 19 Days initiative is now the Haven’s biggest fundraiser. While the effects of 2020 could have shut down the initiative entirely, local businesses and residents proved to be more creative, thoughtful, and altruistic than ever. Boosted by a $150,000 match from The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, last year, 19 Days raised more $421,000 to support our neighbors experiencing food insecurity and homelessness.
“Participation in the 19 Days makes everyone feel good,” Dan concludes. “And there’s positive peer pressure because so many businesses participate. It’s a way to feel part of something bigger: to join the community spirit of helping neighbors in need.”
Thank you to Dan Fraser, thank you to the angels of 19 Days, and thank you to all participating businesses and Upper Valley residents for keeping it local and supporting the Haven.