Published August 30. 2014 2:50PM Updated August 31. 2014 12:06AM
Norwich — It’s well known that the Salvation Army is on the scene at many local emergencies, so when the fire occurred at the service agency’s own building, local business groups, nonprofits, volunteer agencies and the public responded in kind.
The Salvation Army collected about 25 grocery bags full of food, another 30 bags of clothes and raised $339 during a four-hour food and clothing drive Saturday at the Norwichtown Commons Stop & Shop supermarket.
The special drive was held to replenish supplies and equipment lost in an accidental kitchen fire that caused heavy damage to the first floor of the Salvation Army building at 262 Main St.
“I was quite pleased with what the community was able to accomplish to help the Salvation Army,” Salvation Army Capt. Jerry Uttley said at the end of the drive.
Uttley, other Salvation Army officials and volunteers staffed a table outside the grocery store and greeted shoppers, many of whom were aware of the fire that temporarily displaced the agency.
“Oh, yeah, you had a fire,” one man said, dropping a few bills in the signature red Salvation Army kettle.
Others quietly placed bags of groceries into the two shopping carts parked adjacent to the table. Uttley thanked each donor and stopped to chat about the fire if anyone was curious enough to ask.
At the end of the table, volunteer Deirdra Allard offered donors a homemade cupcake she and volunteer Patrice Jaskiewicz had baked for the drive.
The shopping carts quickly filled with donated dry food goods, and volunteers emptied them into their cars. Bags of clothes quickly filled a minivan parked nearby.
“It’s a very good selection of clothes,” said Salvation Army Senior Soldier Jacob Rhoades of Jewett City.
The food drive will be supplemented by several cash donations the Salvation Army received in the days following the fire from other local nonprofit human services agencies and business groups.
The Rose City Business Network International donated $800 to purchase food for the Salvation Army food pantry, and the Norwich Rotary Club’s noontime group added $300. Crocker’s Boatyard in New London has offered replacement office supplies.
The Thames Valley Council for Community Action and United Community & Family Services each donated $500 to the Salvation Army.
Volunteer Debbie Kievits, coordinator of the Greater Norwich Anti-Bullying Coalition, said the Salvation Army still needs refrigerators and freezers for its food pantry.
The Salvation Army has relocated to the basement of the United Congregational Church at 87 Broadway as repairs are made to its building.
Regular operation will resume this week in the new location. A church service will be held in the parlor chapel at 11 a.m. today, and food pantry distribution hours will resume this week — 1 to 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — Uttley said. Office hours likely will resume Wednesday, he said.
The Salvation Army also regularly hosts the rotating community meal on the second Sunday of the month at the United Congregational Church. Uttley said that will be held as scheduled at 2 p.m. Sept. 14.