Life is starting to return to normal for residents and business owners in Shelton who lost everything in a fire earlier this month, but the road to recovery is long.
More than three weeks after a fire collapsed business and apartments homes on Howe Avenue, volunteers are still busy sorting donations, which haven’t stopped coming in.
“Everybody needs a friend. Everybody needs to help,” said Collean Toupin, who works at a nearby restaurant and adjusted her work schedule to be able to volunteer.
Toupin came to donate a mattress and said that after realizing how much help the volunteers needed, she stayed – and hasn’t left.
“[These] people lost everything. They're never going to be able to rebuild. They’re going to have to take the time. They're not even going to be able to process what's going on,” Toupin added.
Volunteers said this isn't just a place to drop off donations. They also want it to be a safe haven for those affected – a place where they can talk and decompress after losing so much.
Gov. Malloy has issued a federal disaster declaration, allowing Jerome Strong from the Small Business Administration to help homeowners, renters and store owners apply for up to $2 million in disaster assistance.
“It's really a long-term recovery. Things don't happen overnight. You can't rebuild your business overnight,” said Strong, a field operations specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “You can't return everything to normal the next day, so you have to make plans and you have to make options.”
Plans and wishes are listed on index cards on a board outside the donation center. Most list basic necessities.
But one card stands out. It only lists one thing: a new apartment.