Elderly and disabled residents displaced from fire have to spend Thanksgiving in hotel

LEICESTER, Mass. — More than a dozen elderly people displaced from a fire in Leicester may have to spend Thanksgiving at the La Quinta in Auburn.

With tears welling up in her eyes Darlene Camosse shared the only good news she can share on this story.

“It’s so beyond what I would expect that I am just thankful I’m standing here and that everyone around me is OK,” Camosse said.

Her unit was one of 40 evacuated on a very cold Tuesday morning.

“It’s quarter after four in the morning,” Camosse said. “I’m sound asleep and I got people banging on my door, ‘Get up, it’s a fire.’ We had smoke coming down the hallway, hit my throat.”

Firefighters are trying to figure out what caused the roof of the Sunset Gardens complex on Main Street to begin smoking.

A WRTA bus escorted the residents to the Leicester Senior Center to spend the night. Hours later, Red Cross set them up in an Auburn hotel through Sunday.

“Most of them are over-65,” said Deja New Donations Coordinator Cheryl Cooney. “They are on fixed incomes. Some of them have real significant issues. It’s sad.”

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But thankfully this story has a little more good news. Down the street from the fire is nonprofit Deja New. Through partnerships, it has already figured out ways to provide immediate needs such as winter coats, and even a Thanksgiving meal.

“Leicester historically is a historically generous town,” Cooney said. “A former selectman in town, he’s gonna be cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the 15 people who are at the hotel and delivering that.”

Deja New is also collecting monetary donations in hopes that the tears in the resident’s eyes will soon go away and that they can figure out housing.

“I don’t know,” Camosse said. “I just heard we were staying through Sunday, so we can see another surprise. I just hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving because it’s taking me for a loop.”

This Friday from 8 to 12 at the Leicester Town Hall building, 3 Washburn Square, Red Cross volunteers will staff a Resource Center to help the residents. They can sign up for food stamps, see about insurance options and talk to people about housing potential because it could be months before they can move back in their apartments.

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