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Spicer Mansion providing meals to young adult homeless shelter during pandemic

Groton — When Noank Community Support Services Executive Director Regina Moller recently received a call from the owner of Spicer Mansion offering to cook three meals a day for the agency’s young adult homeless shelter, she was so grateful she started crying.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency had been struggling to piece together meals for the 18- to 24-year-olds who, prior to the quarantine, ate meals while out in the community during the day, Moller said. Staff had to figure out who to ask for a donation and where to pick up food each day.

The delivery of donated meals alleviates that pressure, at a time when Noank Community Support Services also is facing a financial hit from the cancellation of its large fundraiser that typically brings in $40,000 for the agency, she said. The agency is seeking donations in lieu of people attending the gala.

Brian Gates, owner of Spicer Mansion, which typically contributes to the fundraiser’s auction, decided to help out by providing meals to the shelter. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Spicer Mansion is preparing food, under Chefs Chad Hobert, Andrew Fine and Philip Morgan, and delivering them so the youths will have three meals every day of the week, Gates said. The family-style meals will be dropped off three times a week at the Main Street House.

“It’s an amazing example of people in this community pulling together in a time of crisis,” Moller said.

Gates called Tim Quinn, sales representative for Connecticut and southern Rhode Island for the food distributor Dole & Bailey, to ask if he would help. Quinn, who grew up in Groton Long Point and said he knows the good work the agency does, on Wednesday delivered 100 pounds of onions and 300 pounds of potatoes to Spicer Mansion for the meals and plans to donate more food.

This week’s menu included crab cakes, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, an assortment of quiches and yogurts, an array of sandwiches and soups, red bliss potato salad, pasta, shepherd’s pie, salads, asparagus, broccoli, chocolate chip cookies, brownies and ice cream.

Jett Black, 23, a resident and youth leader on the shelter’s youth advisory board who recently got a job offer, said he noticed the impact the meals have had on residents.

“It’s really reassuring for them because not a lot of people have support systems or people that are within their family able to help them out, due to whatever the circumstances may have been, so I know that when you got a full stomach and a house over your head, your attitude’s a little better and it helps you go about and focus on what you really need to,” he said.

Black said he encourages people to also help others. “Not a lot of people take a lot of time to think about that this could happen to anybody until it happens to them, but I think that it’s a great thing that people are taking the time of day to reach out and to help those who are in need,” he said.

Five people are living in the shelter, which provides life skill training and help with job and housing searches for young adults, Moller said.

She said the state is still providing funding for rapid rehousing for youths during the pandemic. The shelter is continuing to discharge clients to live in their own apartments, though it’s taking longer to find housing and some searches are being done virtually. Many clients are facing unemployment during the pandemic.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to eat, especially during this quarantine. It’s been a little harder since we couldn’t find jobs and stuff like that, so it means a lot,” said Peter Perez, 21, who is staying at the shelter.

Perez said he is looking for an apartment after he recently was accepted into a rehousing program that will help pay the security deposit and his rent for up to a year. He plans to get his own place and a job and eventually go back to school.

“Everything they do for us is just teaching us how to become better adults,” he said of the agency.

Gates said one young man was interested in learning how to cook, and Gates offered the opportunity for him to shadow a chef at Spicer Mansion after the pandemic.

Noting the “Community Strong” signs popping up around Mystic, Gates said that Captain Elihu Spicer — who had the mansion as his summer home and built the Mystic & Noank Library, among other contributions to the area — embodied being “community strong” and Spicer Mansion is donating the meals in his spirit.

Kelly Reardon, member of the Noank Community Support Services board of directors, said the meals donation takes a great burden off the residents, who won’t have to worry about food during the coronavirus pandemic.

The meals also take a “huge weight” off the shoulders of the staff, who are in an unprecedented situation, board President Mari Kodama said.

“They are on the front lines,” Kodama said. “They’re taking care of the residents, the young women and the young men that are in the various programs, and just doing an incredible job in a really uncertain time, and so we’re very fortunate to have the staff that we have and we’re very fortunate to have Regina at the helm.”

k.drelich@theday.com

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