Locals Rally, Help Neighbors After Flood
By Mary Leach
Special to The Sun
BILLERICA -- When Darlene Torre heard that more than 50 families were displaced in Billerica following a major water leak last week, she felt compelled to help.
She and other concerned residents rallied to collect gift cards -- $1,520 worth so far -- and to try to connect the residents of The Commons at Boston Road apartments with needed services.
Many residents were left homeless after a building in the complex was condemned due to water damage.
“I live in one of these high rises and can only imagine if this was me and my little one and what we would do because everybody lives paycheck to paycheck,” said Torre, a longtime Billerica resident. “It just broke my heart to see that some of these people were single moms, elderly and military people. I just wanted to do something, so I put it out there.”
Torre used social media to get the word out. Friends responded and asked others to help. On Saturday, many came forward and donated $1,520 in gift cards. This week she hopes to coordinate a clothing and food drive.
“Today we’re collecting gift cards for the residents, CVS, Subway, Market Basket, O’Connors, Target, and more. Rick’s Café sent over a gift card,” said Torre. “Affected residents have been emailing me a list of their needs. The Billerica interfaith group will be sitting with me to go over their needs and will distribute what we can to the residents and hopefully be able to accommodate all their needs.”
On Sunday, about 12 families from The Commons met with Community Teamwork, a non-profit agency committed to helping low-income people become self-sufficient, to assess needs and help identify avenues for immediate assistance.
The Food Pantry at the First Congregational Church was opened to affected residents for non-perishable food shopping. The shelves were stocked by Torre and resident Dan Burns, who helped coordinate the card collection effort.
“Everybody in the community is helping out. The residents who are displaced just feel like they have been forgotten about. I wonder how, in a town like this, with the resources we have, that we don’t have something to help in case an emergency happens,” Torre said. “How do we not have something, any building, anywhere, so if there is a disaster we can house residents temporarily, even for one night?”
Those who wish to help can drop off gift cards can drop them off at Enterprise Bank and Trust, 223 Boston Road or contact Torre atDTorreBSC@gmail.com . Information about future efforts will be disseminated via social media.