LAWRENCE — Coats, pizza, coffee and sandwiches. Within hours, the people of the Merrimack Valley and beyond were helping the estimated 200 people affected by yesterday's fire.
But more is needed. It will cost the Merrimack Valley Red Cross about $88,000 to feed, clothe and shelter the victims until they are able to get back on their feet.
To help this endeavor, The Eagle-Tribune has reopened its Santa Fund to raise money for the Red Cross. All the money raised will go directly toward helping the families. It is the first time ever the fund has been opened outside the holiday season.
"The Santa Fund is historically to help families in need. Right now there are families that lost everything in this fire," said Eagle-Tribune Publisher Al Getler. "In an unprecedented move, we are reopening the Santa Fund to aid the Lawrence fire victims."
Donations of food and clothing were already pouring in by 10 a.m. to help the families as well as those firefighters, police and emergency workers who spent hours knocking down the fire — as well as keeping it from spreading.
Members of the Manchester, N.H., chapter of the Boston College Club were collecting coats and clothes for the evacuees. The club helped 26 families left homeless by a five-alarm fire on Lake Avenue in Manchester on Jan. 17. Now, they're ready to help out Lawrence.
Pronto Pizza and Sal's Pizza donated dozens of pizzas to feed the firefighters and police officers. Burtons Grill in North Andover sent sandwiches, cheeseburgers, french fries, soups and salads. Area Dunkin' Donuts sent countless boxes of Joe and cups, doughnuts and munchkins.
Anonymous good Samaritans dropped off boxes of doughnuts and pastries in a large camper police and firefighters used as a command post. Food also was dropped off at the makeshift shelter set up at the South Lawrence East School.