Darien teen creates gift card project to support businesses
A Facebook page a Darien teen created to help local businesses has been creating quite a buzz around town. To date, the page — which was launched April 25 and called Rescue Main Street Darien, has more than 930 members.
The purpose of the page is help support Darien businesses which have suffered as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rescue Main Street Darien, created by 14-year-old Sophie Curtis and her three siblings — Ben, 12; Will, 10, and Grace, 7 — is a gift certificate swap.
The page has already collected 100 gift certificates, or a total of $5,000 for local businesses.
Those participating in the project include Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff and Darien State Rep. Terrie Wood.
For more information, visit Rescue Main Street Darien on Facebook.
How it works
Participants may purchase a $50 gift certificate from any Darien business. They will then post a photo of the gift card on the Facebook page and put it in an envelope with their name, email, and telephone number. Then, they send an email to email@example.com and Sophie will make arrangements to pick it up.
On a date that has not yet been announced, Sophie and her siblings will host a gift exchange at a location in town where all those who contributed will receive a random envelope from another contributor with a $50 gift card. Similar to a Secret Santa, people will pick the gift cards from a hat and no one will know what they will receive in advance.
Sophie, who moved to Darien with her family from Manhattan last year, recently learned that some family friends and cousins created a similar Facebook page in Westchester, N.Y.
“I thought it would be a great idea to do this for Darien,” said Sophie, who is a freshman at Darien High School.
In junior high school in Manhattan, she was on the student council.
“During the quarantine, a lot of businesses are struggling. They are either closed or just have walk-in or takeout,” she said. “I wanted to come up with something to benefit the community.”
With her mother’s help, she created the Facebook page and her mother shared it with the Darien Moms Facebook page, and it spread through word of mouth.
While Sophie said much of the project is done over email and Facebook, “I have always been comfortable talking to adults, especially in our small community.”
Sophie records all gift cards she receives onto a spreadsheet she created, and places them in a large bag.
She has received gift cards from all different kinds of businesses in town, including bakeries, clothing stores, hairdressers, nail salons, delis, craft shops, sporting goods stores, and florists as well as bookstores, groceries, martial arts facilities, exercise studios, pet care stores, pharmacies, and home decor stores.
“We are going to try to accommodate everybody,” Sophie said.
Sophie said she makes sure to get all her online schoolwork done each day prior to working on the project.
Her mother has been driving her and her siblings to pick up the gift cards from people’s mailboxes.
The most challenging part of the project, according to Sophie, is managing and tracking all the different envelopes that she has been receiving, and thinking about how to distribute them in a safe manner.
“I’m also a little worried that people will be disappointed with what they get, but I hope that the spirit to support Darien remains,” she said.
She said her entire family plans to be at the gift certificate exchange, to make sure it’s organized, according to Sophie.
Sophie said she plans to collect gift cards until the end of the pandemic.
“We want people to have the motivation to continue giving gifts to support Darien,” she said, adding, however, that she has set a goal at 250 gift cards.
She added that she has been “pleasantly surprised” by all the support she is receiving through the gift card program.
“It’s really amazing that this happened,” she said, adding she has learned “that even a small gesture can make a big difference.”
Sophie continued: “It’s very important during this time to come together and support the community to keep stores afloat and keep Darien strong.”
She said she would like to thank all contributors for helping support Darien.
“We are all working together to make this happen,” she said.
Regarding a possible future career in business or marketing, Sophie said “I haven’t really thought about what I specifically want to be when I grow up, but I want to be a leader.”