Sisters Christina Rodriguez and Sherri Harrison were unable to fill the frigid air in their home with the warm smells of their own Thanksgiving feast, but they felt blessed all the same when they arrived at the Elks Lodge in Lawrence to pick up a pre-cooked meal.
“I’m grateful for this, but it’s an inconvenience,” Harrison said.
“With your house, it’s a home and there’s no place like home,” Rodriguez added.
The pair, who live in the Merrimack Valley gas disaster zone, were among thousands who received a pre-cooked Thanksgiving meal yesterday.
Hundreds of red-cheeked volunteers packed cars with cardboard boxes that contained a hot turkey dinner, with a vegetarian option, a gluten-free option and a Spanish option.
A total of 16,000 meals were served to folks who are still without heat and hot water in their homes, according to Columbia Gas spokesman Scott Ferson, on a record cold Thanksgiving with temperatures in the teens.
About 75 percent of affected houses are relit, Ferson said, but there are still several thousand people who aren’t in their homes yet. Every day about 350 homes are put back online, he said.
The original goal was to restore service throughout the area by November 19.
Columbia now hopes to restore service by December 16 .
“I think it was the hope that things would be back to normal by Thanksgiving,” Ferson said. “We’re ahead of schedule now but it’s taken a while to get there.”
U.S. Rep.-elect Lori Trahan was among the many volunteers with her daughters Grace, 8, and Caroline, 4, all in pom pom winter hats, along with her husband, David.
“This is where we needed to be. It’s too cold for people not to be in their homes, it’s too cold for people to not have their gas or their heat on Thanksgiving so we wanted to come out and help,” Trahan said, rubbing together her black insulated mittens. “Everyone who is here could be at home watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, but they’re not. They’re out here and I think that’s what makes our community strong.”
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said the people who are still displaced were on the top of his mind yesterday, making sure they were safe, getting heated properly and following the firefighters’ guidelines to avoid fires.
“Luckily we have a lot of smart people that live in our communities that are going to take themselves a chance to come and get some food and really celebrate today as best they can because in the darkest times we have to take time out to really appreciate what we do have and appreciate each other and I think this is part of it,” Rivera said, “but I’m worried about getting a call.”