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'It's really nice to see that people care." Freeport Middle School girls raise thousands for those affected by COVID-19

Lana DiRusso of Freeport and Mary MacDonald of Pownal will use the funds to buy gift cards from local restaurants to give to those experiencing food insecurity.

FREEPORT, Maine — At home with their families due to the coronavirus, two Freeport Middle School girls visiting via FaceTime devised a unique way to help their communities survive the pandemic.

Lana DiRusso of Freeport and Mary MacDonald of Pownal haven't seen each other in person for months, but during one of their "chats" -- and with the guidance of parents and organizations -- they struck upon a plan.

The two organized a fundraiser, Save a Business, Feed a Family, on the GoFundMe platform. DiRusso, 12, said she hoped to raise $2,000 during the month of May. The girls planned to buy gift certificates at local restaurants and give them to families experiencing food insecurity.

Now, they're working with the Freeport Community Services food pantry, and the gift certificates will be tucked into boxes of food. FCS has served an average of 80 to 90 households a week during the pandemic.

Much to their delight, as of Tuesday morning, the fund had generated $4,330 in donations.

"We've gotten some pretty big donations, which I was not expecting at all," DiRusso said. "I wasn't expecting as many people to donate as they did, and I think a lot of people are just trying ... there's just not much they can do right now to help because they're stuck at home, and so when they saw this, they took it as an opportunity to, like, help, because that's the most they can do right now."

Credit: NCM

"I can kind of imagine it must be really hard being home and not having enough money or food," MacDonald, 13, said. "It just, like, it feels so good to help, I guess."

DiRusso said they will keep the fundraiser going throughout the month of May, hoping additional donations will allow them to help more families and businesses.

"It's really nice to see that people care, because sometimes you kind of doubt that in times like this," MacDonald said.

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