Town overwhelmed with donations for fire victims

Town overwhelmed with donations for fire victims

Michael Babbitt, a member of the Lincoln Budget Board, helps unload the pickup trucks filled with clothing while helping during the drive-through clothing collection on Sunday at Lincoln Town Hall. Babbitt was one of many Lincoln fire, police, and rescue personnel, Lincoln town officials and volunteers who helped collect clothing and personal hygiene items donated by area residents to help victims of the fire in Manville. (Breeze photos by Charles Lawrence)

LINCOLN – Cars lined Old River Road throughout the day on Sunday, waiting patiently to donate items to the 11 Lincoln families who lost their homes after an early morning fire on New Year’s Day.

Lincoln residents and members of surrounding communities flocked to Lincoln Town Hall to give what they could to help the Manville fire survivors get back on their feet, donating new and gently used clothes, blankets and towels, baskets of toiletries and diapers, children’s toys and books, and money and gift cards.

Lincoln Police Capt. Philip Gould, who helped spearhead the drive, said the support from the community was literally overwhelming.

Members of the town’s fire, rescue and police departments worked to collect the donations, with volunteers from Town Hall and the community sorting through the stacks of items and dividing them up for each of the families displaced by the fire at 81 Spring St.

By the end of the day, bags of donations were piled so high that the town had to seek out temporary storage. Town Hall began to take on the look of a nonprofit donation center, its rooms overflowing with clothes, shoes, toiletries and other items.

Less than an hour into the drive, Gould posted on Facebook asking for only new garments or gift cards, as the building was “busting at the seams” with donations.

All told, hundreds of people from Lincoln and nearby communities offered their support to the 20 adults and 10 children impacted by the Eagle Apartments fire.

“People are still good,” remarked Peggy Weigner, a town employee who kick-started the drive.

So much so, Gould said, that the town will not only be able to support the victims of the Manville fire, but several other charities as well.

“We ended up filling up two tractor trailers, 30 large bins and a large part of the Town Hall basement. We were able to outfit our fire victims with clothes, hygiene items, gift cards and other donations to help get them back on their feet. We have started making deliveries and will continue to do so this week,” he said.

Since the donations exceeded what the families can currently take in, the town is now looking to help other nonprofits, and has been working with the Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and local shelters to divvy up the items. The London Company donated the use of the two trailers to temporarily store the items.

“We are going to work hard over the next few days to make sure other people in need can benefit from the outpouring of support,” he said.

Concurrent drives are also occurring at the Lincoln Knights of Columbus and the Harmony Cafe in Manville. The Knights have begun collecting books, toys, clothing and monetary donations this week, while The Harmony collected household items.

A lot was lost in 2020, including the town’s Memorial Day Parade, pasta dinner fundraiser, and outdoor music and food truck nights at Chase Farm, but Gould said the donation drive started 2021 on a positive note.

“We didn’t get the chance to really rally together as a community last year, but this event helped set the train back on the tracks. This year is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln being a town. It’s a big year of celebration and town pride, and I think the donation drive was an exercise in that and a great way to kick off our 150th year,” he said.

Lt. Shane Trant, of the Manville Fire Department, directs the unloading of the trucks at Lincoln Town Hall for the drive-through clothing collection for the families left homeless by a fire in Manville. The fire left 20 adults and 10 children homeless.
Pickup trucks unload bags and boxes of donated clothing at the back of Lincoln Town Hall on Sunday. Lincoln held a drive-through clothing collection for families left homeless by a fire in Manville on New Year’s Day.