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Efforts to aid Hadley fire victims underway, fund established

  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

    Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.

    COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

    Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.

    COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

    Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.

    COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

    Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.

    COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.
  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.
  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.
  • Aerial shot of the strip mall fire that destroyed about a dozen small businesses on Route 9 in Hadley Sunday.<br/><br/>COURTESY ROBERT JEFFWAY JR.

The Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce is coordinating a relief fund that has been rapidly gaining support from local business owners and residents throughout the Valley.

The chamber on Wednesday set up a website for the Hadley Business Fire Relief Fund, where people can make donations to support the proprietors of the many independent businesses lost in the devastating fire at 206 Russell St. The donations page can be reached through the chamber’s website at amherstarea.com. Donations can also be made by calling 253-0700.

The businesses destroyed in the nighttime blaze included Vietnamese, Chinese and Mexican restaurants, two international food markets, a computer repair business, a tattoo parlor, kung fu studio and a pastry shop.

“For me, as the son of an immigrant, this is a big deal,” said Tony Maroulis, the chamber’s executive director. “There is a strong opportunity here for a good ending.”

Meanwhile, investigators are still asking anyone who left laundry in the Hadley Coin-Op Laundromat Sunday night to call the Hadley Fire Department at 584-0874. The investigation into the cause of the fire is focused on the laundromat, which was located at the rear of the plaza and was also destroyed.

Jennifer Mieth, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Fire Services, said Wednesday that people have claimed laundry since the fire, but some remains. The fire marshal’s office has said that the owners of the clothing left behind may be able to help investigators pinpoint how and where the fire started.

Support growing

As for the relief efforts, Maroulis said the chamber is working with the United Way of Hampshire County to determine how to disburse funds collected.

“The preliminary work is happening pretty quickly,” he said. “We don’t want this giving moment to go away.”

Maroulis said it made sense for the chamber to get involved and act as the fiscal agent for the relief fund begun by people like David Russell, interim manager of the Franklin Community Co-op in Greenfield, who has enlisted the support of businesses and is working with the chamber to get the ball rolling.

In recent days, Russell and others have been distributing donation jars to local businesses, which will turn any money collected over to the fire relief fund.

“It seems entirely appropriate and seems like the correct thing to do,” said Russell, who along with Liz Duffy Adams of Greenfield set up a Facebook page called “Help the Rt 9 Hadley Fire Victims.”

The page had 800 likes as of Wednesday afternoon and Russell said it will serve as a place where people can learn about benefits and other efforts to aid the fire victims.

Maroulis said the chamber will be using social media to get the message out about the relief fund, with information about where and how to donate, including its own Facebook page.

Among the businesses joining in is The Toy Box in Amherst, which is donating 10 percent of all its sales this Saturday to the fund in addition to having a donation jar in the store.

“Any way we can help raise money,” said owner Liz Rosenberg.

Rosenberg, who lives in Hadley, said she was a frequent customer of the diverse businesses that burned down.

“This is a lot of local independent business owners and it happens to be around the corner from where I live,” she said. “It’s dear to my heart, both as a Hadley resident ... and as a small business owner.”

In addition to setting up the relief fund, Maroulis said the chamber and other parties are working to schedule an initial meeting of the fire victims to take stock of their needs and communicate the work that’s being done on their behalf and to determine what other resources may be available to them. He said the Pioneer Valley Hotel Group has offered to donate space for that session at one of its area locations.

“This is going to be an emotional experience for people,” Maroulis said. “Obviously, we’d want a crisis counselor to at least be available at that first meeting.”

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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