The Ladies Auxiliary of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Co., has for years been called upon to offer aid to the members of their host company during emergencies. This week the women have stepped forward to help others affected by a fire.
The women have begun collecting items for the families who were displaced following a major fire in Shelton during the overnight of January 5-6. They are hoping that by offering a central donation point, Newtown residents will be able to offer aid to others as well.
Five people were injured, and between 25 and 30 people were left without a home, after a fire at 446 Howe Avenue in Shelton. The fire destroyed the building, which housed a restaurant and florist on its first floor, and apartments in its upper floors. All of the building’s occupants were able to get out on their own or were rescued by firefighters before the four-story mixed use building collapsed early Monday morning.
SHVF&R Ladies Auxiliary President Laurie Comerford and Treasurer Sharon Doherty are asking Newtown residents to consider making donations to help their neighbors.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mrs Doherty made the first of two planned drives to Shelton, delivering items that had already been donated by residents. The back of her hatchback vehicle was filled to nearly overflowing with bags and stacks of clothing including winter coats, sport coats and shoes; and paper goods. She was joined by her older son Patrick, a member of the Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue Junior Corps; and Andy DeWolfe, a Sandy Hook firefighter, to deliver what had already been dropped off at the Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue main station in the previous 24 hours.
Shelton’s Echo Hose Hook & Ladder No. 1 is within a block of where the structure fire occurred. The firehouse at 379 Coram Avenue is serving the central collection point for those who wanted to donate anything for the victims.
“It went extremely well,” Mrs Doherty said of her first run to Shelton. “My car was loaded. They were very grateful that we came down with all this stuff.”
Mrs Doherty described finding a room inside the Echo Hose station that had been filled with tables, “and everything is already sorted — small, medium, large, men and women’s clothes. They have a whole section that’s filled with shoes, and another section with health and beauty stuff. But they still have a ton of stuff that needs to be sorted through as well.
“These people, who were living in this apartment building, literally got out with their clothes on the backs. No pocketbooks, medications, pocketbooks, wallets, birth certificates, nothing,” she continued. “You know, it’s hard to replace all that stuff. I don’t know how they could do it.
“The world stepped up to help Newtown last year,” said Mrs Doherty. “This is our chance to pay it forward.”
Nonperishable items, toiletries, blankets, and other housewares can be dropped at the Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue main station, 18-20 Riverside Road. Ms Comerford and Mrs Doherty would like to have all donations from Newtown residents at the Sandy Hook firehouse by noon Wednesday, January 15. They will make a second delivery to Shelton at that time.
“I anticipate more people will help during this next week,” said Mrs Doherty. “I have already had phone calls from people who want to drop off items.”
A firefighter is generally at the station between 9 am and 3 pm Monday through Friday. Members are often around as well after 3 pm and on weekends by chance. The ladies auxiliary is asking that donors do not leave items at the firehouse unattended.
Gift cards are being encouraged by Echo Hose firefighters. Some of the men who lost their home need to replace their work supplies. On Wednesday the website was asking people to consider donating gift cards “to stores like Walmart, Target, Stop & Shop, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears, etc.” The group also put a call out for “certain types of furniture or gift cards to furniture stores to help set up their new homes.”
“They can buy what they want, things they know they will use,” said Ms Comerford.
By Thursday morning, the company was reporting on its Facebook page that it was “no longer in need of clothing but will not turn any of it away if brought.” In response to a comment on that post, the company spokesperson posted that the fire company had already been in contact with local shelters and organizations that will receive clothing and other items that cannot be used by the displaced residents.
Financial donations can also be made. A Howe Avenue Relief Fund has been established at Webster Bank. Donations for that fund, according to the Echo Hose website, can be made at any branch of the bank.
In addition to goods and gift cards, Shelton firefighters are accepting the donation of time.
“That is one thing they do need: they need volunteers,” said Mrs Doherty. “This is a great opportunity for kids, for community service hours. They need people to help them sort through these bags of donations, and put them into piles. They really need help with doing that.”
Volunteers can show up at any time, according to Echo Hose’s website.
“It’s only 15 minutes to get there,” pointed out Mrs Doherty.
For additional information contact Mrs Doherty at 203-948-1688.
Due to the high volume of phone calls going into the firehouse this week, anyone with questions about donating furniture and other large items are asked to check the updates on Echo Hose’s Facebook page.