BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Bridgeport aid workers were inundated with generous donations to help those left homeless after a devastating New Year’s Eve fire at a Charles Street apartment-condo complex, as workers tore down the remains of the charred building just off Main Street on Monday.
Leo Koutikas, owner of New Colony II Diner next to the complex, collected clothes, toys, food and other supplies all weekend. He sent eight packed box trucks full of donations to Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s Connecticut Avenue warehouse for distribution to affected families.
“We knew a lot of those people. They used to come in here,” Koutikas said Monday. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”
Stratford EMS staffers, who were on standby during the fire, gathered donations from townspeople hoping to replace holiday gifts for the children affected, as well as clothing and food, said director Michael Loiz.
In just two hours, the donations filled an entire ambulance and a smaller paramedical SUV that took the items to the Red Cross. Stratford EMS sent another two full ambulances and an SUV filled with donations to Stratford’s Sterling House for distribution.
“We wanted to help,” Loiz said. “These people lost everything.”
It was just after 6 a.m. New Year’s Eve when residents and neighbors heard the fire alarms going off and saw smoke billowing from the garage under the building at 215 Charles St.
One man was rescued from an upper apartment shortly after emergency personnel arrived, but there were no casualties.
As Koutikas and his staff served lunches at the diner Monday, workers used an excavator to tear apart what remained of the apartment complex. Mattresses and chairs were strewn on the ground and the smell of smoke hung in the air.
Bridgeport Rescue Mission will host a winter coat and clothing distribution for women and children on Wednesday, Jan. 6, and for men on Thursday, January 7, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at its headquarters at 1088 Fairfield Avenue. Priority will be given to victims of the New Year’s Eve fire. Contact the Bridgeport Rescue Mission for a drop-off location.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their homes in this tragic fire,” said Executive Director Terry Wilcox. “It’s times like these when we rely on our community to come together and help one another. Bridgeport Rescue Mission is here and ready to assist our neighbors in need.”
The diner is no longer taking donations. Koutikas said donors may bring items directly to the Rescue Mission warehouse at 1069 Connecticut Ave.
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