Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Dec
  • 6

In service of others

Posted By December 6, 2012 | 12:21 pm | Lead Story #2

Helping fire victims

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – An historic building in downtown Leominster was recently gutted by six-alarm fire.
Haley Romano and Ceana Steinbrecher wanted to help the displaced residents. So the two sixth-graders at St. Anna Elementary School helped organize a fundraiser.
“Well I wanted to do it because it really touched people’s hearts,” Ceana said of the fire that raced through the Columbia Building.
She noted, in general, there’s been an outpouring of support for the residents of the 20 apartments in the building’s upper stories. No one was killed, although two firefighters were injured.
Ceana explained the fire hit on a personal level as well, as some of Haley’s relatives knew some of the people who lived in the apartments.
“We just felt bad because a lot of people didn’t have homes or anything and we just thought we should have a fundraiser at our school to raise money for it,” explained Haley.
They spoke to St. Anna principal Danielle Colvert about their idea, and she thought it was a good one.
“They approached me at recess on Wednesday and said they had heard about the families who had been displaced by the fire,” Mrs. Colvert recalled. “They asked if they could organize a fundraiser to help out.  We talked a bit about some possibilities, like a magazine drive or calendar raffle, and decided that those would take too long to organize and see the results.”
So Mrs. Colvert suggested an “Out of Uniform Day,” in which students who wished to wear street clothes to school could do so, if they donated $5 to the “Leominster Relief Fund” being administered through the mayor’s office.
Mrs. Colvert said she knew this would generate great participation. The “Out of Uniform Day” was held last Friday, which she noted “was the perfect day” as it was the last Friday of the month.
“The girls enthusiastically agreed,” she added.
The girls, who’ve been lifelong best friends, since their mothers also know one another, spent their recess the day before the fundraiser to go to each class and explain what they were doing.
“They were really happy to help,” Haley said of the other students.
Both girls’ families were surprised to hear of the fundraiser.
“They went right to the principal,” said Cindy Romano, Haley’s grandmother. “We were shocked. We were just pleasantly surprised.”
“They both have a heart of gold, I have to say that,” she added.
Susan Steinbrecher, Ceana’s mother, said she had merely inquired at the school if there would be a fundraiser, but then nearly forgot that conversation.
“They took it and ran with it,” she said of her daughter and her daughter’s friend.

Helping hurricane victims

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

WESTMINSTER – John MacKinnon heard about the devastation in Union Beach, New Jersey, caused when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast.
While attending a football game in Boston, he met a young woman from that community, who told him more than 100 homes were destroyed. Although her home was standing, several friends and relatives lost everything they owned.
Mr. MacKinnon realized these people, now staying at a nearby Army base, are in desperate need of essentials, such as diapers, baby formula, non-perishable food and toys.
With the help of his parish, St. Edward the Confessor in Westminster, Mr. MacKinnon organized Hurricane Sandy Relief.
Since he owns a printing company, he made colored fliers showing photos of the damage done by the late-October storm. Many structures are completely leveled. One house still stands, although half was blown away. Another shot shows cars stacked, one on top of another.
“Nobody died, which was great,” said Mr. MacKinnon of that community.
Hurricane Sandy donations are being collected at Mr. MacKinnon’s parish, as well as at other locations. St. Bernard Elementary and Holy Rosary in Gardner, have also taken up the cause with him.
Mr. MacKinnon said he wanted to have multiple drop-off spots in case the response in each was just a little. That way he’d be assured of a big lot to send to New Jersey.
One local business, Aubuchon Hardware, donated a tractor trailer to bring the items to New Jersey, after the collection wraps up this weekend.
Mr. MacKinnon said the needs of the homeless in Union Beach “are kind of evolving on a daily basis.”
The people staying at the base already have enough clothes and blankets, he said, suggesting that toys are needed as it’s so close to Christmas.
St. Edward’s pastor, Father William Champlin, said parishioners have, so far, donated a lot.
“It looks like we’re doing pretty well,” he said.
Father Champlin said he was shocked at the devastation and the number of people who can’t live in their homes right now.
In addition to the 100 homes that were destroyed, hundreds of others are uninhabitable.
At St. Bernard Elementary School in Fitchburg, teacher Paula Pelletier and several students gathered around a table in the front lobby laden with food and other supplies, all destined for Union Beach.
She said this reflects the school’s motto, “Deeds not Words.”
Mr. MacKinnon said anyone seeking more information on Hurricane Sandy Relief can contact him by phone 508-479-2473 or email at .