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“Give Apizza Your Heart” To Bella Vista Refugees
by Cora Lewis | Sep 3, 2013 1:31 pm
Posted to: The Heights
They have cans of food—but no can openers. They have pets with them—but no pet food.
So a new call has gone out to help the seniors displaced by the recent fire at the Bella Vista elderly housing complex.
Bella Vista neighbor Ron Codianni and Alderwoman Barbara Constantinople, who lives at the complex, put out the call at a Tuesday press conferece. They have created a fund to get the temporarily homeless seniors hot meals and transportation to doctors’ offices, as they conclude the third week of living in motels since the early-morning Aug. 14 electrical fire that damaged their Bella Vista apartments.
“The money will go to whatever people need most,” said Constantinople. She and Codianni are also reaching out to local businesses such as Wal Mart and Stop & Shop to accept donations and provide gift cards.
Since the fire, residents who are unable to stay with friends or family have been housed in motels in West Haven, Branford, and New Haven. Constantinople has visited many of the seniors there. She said the most common difficulty reported has been regarding food. “Most places have ‘continental breakfasts’—danishes and things,” she said. “That is not suitable. They should have eggs and hot food. We have to think of diabetics.”
Many of the motel rooms also lack kitchens with stoves or ovens, or even refrigerators. If a resident has diabetes, Carabetta Management has made sure he or she has access to a fridge to store insulin, said Constantinople, but not all residents have that condition.
“You still need a fridge to store milk,” said Renée Rogers, who cares for her 84-year-old father, Philip LeMay, at the housing complex. Both were displaced.
Rogers and LeMay have stayed at four motels since leaving Bella Vista: the Days Inn on Route 80, the Best Western on Saw Mill Road, the Comfort Inn in Guildford, and now Motel 6 in Branford. Since many motels are booked up and have summer vacation reservations, the displaced can often only stay for one or two nights at a time. Currently, at Motel 6, they don’t have a fridge or a stove, said Rogers, who typically cooks for her father. “We’ve been eating out” since the fire, she said. “There’s a microwave down the hall.”
Dorothy Harper, who is 78 and has diabetes, said she is concerned for her friends who typically cook for themselves and now may be receiving pre-made meals or relying on motel buffets: “If you’re cooking for a lot of people, you typically cook a lot of rice and pasta—it’s institutional food. If you’re a diabetic, carbohydrates aren’t your friend.”
She’s also worried about those who relying on others for car rides to doctors’ appointments. “Being displaced doesn’t help when you already have health issues. It puts you in distress,” she said.
Patricia Wallace, New Haven’s director of elderly services, said the city had provided a small grant of $500 to the Branford Food Pantry and is in the process of giving the same amount to WHEAT (West Haven Emergency Assistance Task Force), organizations that have been helping provide emergency food and services in towns housing the displaced. WHEAT’s website asks specifically for food donations of “bread, cold cuts, peanut butter, jelly, frozen dinners, and instant coffee” as well as paper plates, plastic utensils, pet food and toiletries.
“We’re coming up with flexible funds to fill the gaps,” Wallace said. The city has also worked to allow residents who lost food in the fire to receive a second allotment of food stamps for August.
Codianni’s mother, Beatrice, who lives across the street from Bella Vista, has also talked to local businesses about contributing their wares or services.
“We’re reaching out to the city’s pizzerias to see if they would consider donating pizzas. We’re calling it, ‘Give Apizza your heart,’” she said.
Bill Johnson, the Bella Vista building manager, said workers have been working around the clock to fix the electrical system and make the building safe for housing. He hopes residents will be able to return as “early as next week.”
“They’re working seven days a week - and holidays. They were here yesterday [on Labor Day]. I saw them,” said Harper.
Those looking to donate can make out checks to:
Bella Vista Fire Fund
258 Grand Ave
New Haven, CT 06513
Stop & Shop in East Haven will accept donations Sept. 21 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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This is very stressful for the people who have been displaced, and more help will surely be welcomed. I want to fill in more information however. Everyone displaced and in the motels is eligible for the Elderly Nutrition Program two-meal pack delivered Monday through Friday. Carabetta Management is paying for those who are too young to qualify by age. People have to complete a simple form that has been distributed. Those meals meet the needs of those with therapeutic diets. WHEAT in West Haven and the Branford Food Pantry are both providing regular food supplies to people in the hotels in those towns. They have gotten support in that from the CT Food Bank. They are doing deliveries once a week. Branford Food Pantry has also been soliciting pet food. They also have filled the gas tanks of the Bella Vista residents who have given rides to others with funds provided by the grants from the City of New Haven’s Philip Marett Fund. American Red Cross provided food at the beginning, and then extended for several more days using resources provided by the City, and have been providing can openers. There is transportation available from Greater New Haven Transit District and Mary Wade Home. Resource information about emergency food in each town and rides has been distributed to people. Anyone able to help to provide rides can volunteer to help by calling Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, and anyone needing rides can call too. They will do their best to assist: 203-230-8994. Pat Wallace, Director of Elderly Services, City of New Haven 203-982-1388.