As flames spread inside the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven in Woodbridge on Monday, act of kindness were spreading all around it.
According to Judy Alperin Diamondstein from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, the JCC staff has been conducting emergency drills for weeks and when it came time to put their work to the test, they executed beautifully.
“I was very, very proud of what an amazing, efficient job our staff did,” said Diamondstein.
Approximately 300 people were inside the JCC when the fire started, including infants that attend the JCC’s preschool. Their safe evacuation became a top priority.
“We had babies in cribs that we were wheeling across the parking lot. Everybody took a baby, said Diamondstein.
The JCC staff wheeled them right over to Bookdale Woodbridge, a neighboring senior living facility. They were right in the middle of dinner, when the cribs came to their back door.
“First we heard sirens and the next thing we see is babies in cribs being pushed in,” said Brookdale Resident Care Associate Roxanne Norton.
The Brookdale workers wasted no time trying to make the JCC members comfortable. They say some people had been forced from the JCC pool and were standing in the Brookdale lobby in a towel.
“It’s like 30 degrees outside so I went and got some extra clothes that we had to have them put on,” said Resident Care Associate Geneva Jackson.
According to JCC Executive Director Scott Cohen, what happened at Brookdale was only the beginning. He says so many good samaritans went above and beyond including the volunteer firefighter who notices the flames during his swim and returned with his gear to fight the fire. He also says a JCC worker gave the shoes off her feet so a member wouldn’t be barefoot.
“It’s comforting to know that people can pull together that quickly,” Cohen said.
The JCC did suffer significant damage in the fire. There is no timeline for when it may reopen, but Cohen says they have wonderful partners in the community that may be able to offer space to help them get some of their programs restarted as soon as possible.