Pomfret Senior Center became 'storm central' after Irene
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Pomfret - posted Wed., Sep. 7, 2011
The Pomfret Senior Center was humming with activity on Sept. 1. Town employees were gathered in the kitchen, as they had been every day since Aug. 29, to prepare meals for town residents still without power or running water after tropical storm Irene struck on Aug. 28. The kitchen crew of 10 to 12 volunteers turned a natural disaster into a show of community force and compassion, as they worked with peelers, graters, knives and spoons to feed their community.
Volunteer Dennis Knapp peeled pears. Rich Simon stirred pasta sauce. Recreation Director Barbara Gagnon grated lemon zest. Tax Collector Pam Lewerenz came in with produce donated from Lapsley Orchards on Route 169. She carried in boxes of already-husked corn, apples and pears. Pomfret was putting on a clinic in making the best out of a bad situation.
Susan LaRose used donated eggplants and tomatoes to make eggplant parmigiana for 50. “I come from a large family,” she said. “I’m basically tripling my recipes.”
Town Clerk Cheryl Grist, Assistant Town Clerk Staci Hatlin and Assistant Tax Collector Pam Gaumond helped make apple/raspberry crisp, macaroni and cheese, and chicken cacciatore. Residents were served a pork dinner one night, compliments of a resident whose freezer contained 10 pounds of the meat. The volunteers made bread pudding from rolls donated by Automatic Rolls in Dayville.
“Our fine citizens of Pomfret emptied their freezers and refrigerators,” said Lewerenz. “Last night we fed 51 people.”
Pomfret has been one of the hardest-hit communities in the Quiet Corner. Eighty percent of the population was without power since Aug. 28. With the power out to the town hall, the employees decided they should gather at the center, said Gagnon. The idea snowballed, and people started bringing in food and supplies.
“The key word is ‘action,’” said Simon, who was able to take a few days off to help out his fellow citizens. “These guys are troopers. They’re cranking away. Action is the only way to go.” For $23, he estimated that they would feed 70 people that evening.
“It has created a great sense of community,” Simon said. “You come in here and find out who needs help. It’s all about helping each other. When you start thinking of helping someone else, the stress kind of goes away.”
Because the senior center was also the emergency center for the town, cots were available, if the need arose. The volunteers prepared meals, swept and mopped floors, and cleaned the restrooms. “Who thinks about toilets?” Simon said. “And yet, they're so important.”
“Town staff has been here religiously,” said Lewerenz. Pomfret's first selectman, Jim Rivers, stopped in daily to check on the situation. People also came with books to read.
“Out of all the traits that God gave us,” Simon said, “the easiest is speech. We can all talk. It’s what you do that counts. There is no power, no water or gas or electricity. So what are you going to do to help your neighbor or your town?”