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Wilton's Hometown Small Biz Heroes

Tales of how Wilton has offered help here and elsewhere to those hit hard by the vicious affects of Hurricane Sandy.

Wilton is a town of Warriors on the field and off. We’ve shown our mettle through now yearly ‘once-in-a-lifetime storms.’ We may gripe about power loss, as we rough it without showers and running water, but all in all we are a community that opens our doors to our neighbors who are in need.

The last couple of weeks since Hurricane Sandy I’ve heard incredible, uplifting stories about individuals who quickly stepped forward to lend an extra hand or give generously to help those hit hardest by the storm. Stories like the one I wrote about some friends who in the matter of just a few hours arranged a collection of supplies for Staten Island and Breezy Point, NY.

But I also started hearing about some Wilton business owners and organizations who also stepped up to do their part. I wanted to highlight some of them who stood out for their generosity and creativity. Part of what motivated this particular column is a belief that when people turn their words into actions to create good, it deserves to be recognized.

The kind of recognition I’m talking about is something you can take part in. It’s easy to tell them that their actions have earned them our thanks and admiration. It’s important as well that we remember them as giving members of our local—and worldwide—community, when it comes time to make sure they stay a part of our community, whether it’s with our business or other kinds of support.

If there’s anyone I missed, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Classic Cleaners, Georgetown

You may remember Erin Adams from an earlier Driver’s Seat column I wrote about ways to help. Adams’ dad is the volunteer fire department chief in Breezy Point. Not only did the Breezy Point fire department fight a fire that claimed 100 homes during the worst of the storm, but they lost a great deal of equipment and their station was very badly damaged.

Adams has been making daily trips to Breezy Point, the community where she grew up, to help out with cleaning and salvaging, bringing in needed supplies, and coordinating efforts. She’s exhausted by everything that she’s doing and emotionally stripped after seeing the kind of loss and devastation in her home town. She’s kept in touch with me and other friends by email, and the details she writes make Breezy Point sound worse than a war zone.

But she’s also been moved by the incredible generosity of the network of friends and how it’s now growing to include strangers from the Wilton community moved by the plight of the one in Breezy Point.

The firemen loved the hand warmers, the FDNY guys helping out liked them too. It gets cold quick and the snow didn't help. Every resident that still has a house, has a house with flood damage so we all used the gloves too. Some of you were so kind as to take my parents laundry to help out on this end. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Cleaning out breezy is part of the challenge, the other part is here, at my house, trying to clean and organize quickly to minimize stress on my mom (while being fully engaged with my 4 kids who are upset with me leaving all day).

The crock pots of food were great. I cooked them here, brought them down to Breezy Point warm and then used one outlet of the generator. The donated power bars and sandwiches are great but a hot meal goes a long way. Some of you have even lent your husband's muscles to either literally help us in Breezy, or to help unload and move boxes on this end.  So many of you have made donations to various funds, thank you on behalf of them.

“Breezy is packed this weekend. It was pretty quiet during the week, so good to see more people around to help today. There are Marines, Army, Navy all over clearing out debris.  Many roads are still blocked by HOUSES that have just totally been blown over. It is incredibly surreal to see amphibious landing vehicles land ashore on your favorite beach and soldiers get out, but that is what is happening. I still can't comprehend it all. The one thing I just remain in awe at is that no one died. I still cannot really talk or write about what is happening, but I want you all to know how much my family, community and I appreciate your support.”

Adams found support here in Wilton from an interesting source. She’d brought home to Wilton the only firefighter uniforms—the dress ones—that survived, wet and muddy yet salvageable. She hope to find cleaners in town who could offer a discount on cleaning the roughly 50 pieces of clothing, or perhaps ask a few of them to clean a only couple of the items. “I would never ask any one store to take them all but maybe I would get lucky with 5-10 stores contributing,” Adams wrote.

On the recommendation of the Wilton Fire Department, she stopped by Classic Cleaners in Georgetown. When owner Dennis O’Connell heard about why Adams was seeking a dry cleaner, he offered to clean all of the items, for free. “If he can clean clothes from muddy flood waters he is a very capable cleaner, and clearly his offer to do all speaks of his character and generosity,” Adams wrote.

Why was O’Connell so moved to do this? “As a young man I served six years in the U.S. Navy and always needed my uniform to be in top condition. Classic Cleaners services all police and fire department uniforms for three local towns. It’s in my blood.”

Adams’ dad, Marty Ingram, is overwhelmed with gratitude at the generosity of everyone in Wilton, according to his daughter. “I called him from the parking lot and he was so grateful. Dennis is helping them piece their firehouse back together, but it’s that spirit of generosity in difficult times that energizes people to move forward,” she said.

Lucci Electric

I’ve written about my friends, Jeff and Kristy Snyder, before. They have dedicated much of their time to a foundation they’ve started to benefit pediatric spinal cord cancer research, something that they’ve become champions of because their 12-year-old daughter, Kennedy, has been living with this kind of cancer for the last 10 years.

The Snyder family lives on one of Wilton’s roads hardest hit by Sandy. With several trees down, the telephone poles and wires lay on the ground for days. It was one of the last two streets restored and made passable in town, more than a week after Sandy had come and gone.

The Snyders’ house was so unreachable, that by the first Tuesday (the first day after Sandy hit) Jeff had to trek down to Rte. 7 on foot. He headed to Lucci Electric to see if they could help service his generator to get it working after the storm.

Within 15 minutes, according to Jeff, a Lucci crew had cut up a tree that had fallen across the road and pinned the Snyders in their home. After the generated was serviced, Jeff asked how much he owed. According to Jeff, “When I asked how much I owe them, he asked that in lieu of payment, we make a donation to Kennedy’s CORD Foundation. How huge is that!” Jeff swore he’ll be a Lucci customer for life from now on, and he did the best he could to spread the news about Lucci’s generosity, starting with a Facebook post.

CVS

Last week a call went out on behalf of a school in Oceanside, Long Island. Not only had many families in the community lost everything, including their houses, but the school was battered horribly by the storm. A family on the Wilton-Norwalk border organized a drive to collect basic school supplies (everything from notebooks, pencils, crayons, glue and tape, pens scissors, and so much more) and books and toys appropriate for grades K-8.

Items began mounting at Wilton drop-off points, especially Our Lady of Fatima’s school entrance. Wilton kids went through their own private book collections and donated so many great reads to the kids of Oceanside. People asked for book donations from the library, and school supplies started massing.

One Wilton resident, Mark Bennett, stopped by Wilton’s CVS on Old Ridgefield Road. “I went there to buy some stuff to donate, and I thought I could talk the manager into a 20% discount so I could buy even more. I was surprised when she said, ‘Hold on,’ and disappeared to the basement. She came up with a huge box of leftover, ‘Back to School’ supplies. She then deeply discounted everything and I was able to get well over $200 worth of items for about $36.”

Girls Scouts 50260 and Wilton Moms

Wilton Daisy Troop #50260 took part in the post-election Girl Scout cookie sales effort earlier this month, outside Stop & Shop and at the Mothers of Preschoolers Fall Festival. With 16 cases left over, troop member and Wilton Moms’ Club member Mary Hoermann put the word out that people in Breezy Point might be cheered by such a simple thing—Girl Scout cookies.

So many Wilton families—the same people fellow Wilton Moms’ Club member Erin Adams had tapped into to donate supplies and help do laundry for Breezy Point citizens—helped make it possible for 132 boxes to be donated. As Hoermann pointed out, “Troop #50260 has added a new skill to the Girl Scouts program:  finding a creative way to help those in need. And who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies? They’re an American tradition. We hope it puts a smile on their faces, if even for a moment and boosts morale.”

Wilton Y

Of course who could forget to mention the Wilton Y. As always, the Y opened its doors as soon as they had cleaned up after the storm. Members and non-members alike were welcomed in to take advantage of the Y’s programming, but more importantly, to use the facility’s services:  hot showers, electronics, a work location and activities for the kids—all at significant cost that the Y has to cover.

More than 2,400 non-memebers took advantage of the Wilton Y’s generosity. That also includes a smaller, subset—children with special needs. Often kids like this have a difficult time adjusting to any kind of change, let alone one that is so disruptive and threatening. There were ample opportunities for all children feel a lot better after the storm.

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I'm sure I left out many more. Please feel free to add any that haven’t been included.

Lorna November 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Time and again, people of Wilton have shown that they don't fall into the stereotype of self-absorbed, status-obsessed Gold Coast residents. Heather, thank you for sharing these reports of kindness and generosity. On a much-lesser scale, I experienced some of the same: neighbors came over the day after the storm to cut up and clear away a small tree that had fallen across my driveway. Meanwhile, I hope the people in the areas hardest hit by the hurricane continue to get the assistance they need and remain in our thoughts and media coverage.
lexi November 21, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Love that o'connell family! Cannot wait to spend thanksgiving with such amazing people! Kudos on giving back to the community :)

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