Schools Reopen, But Help Still Needed After Gas Emergency

lawrence claims center

People wait in line at a claims center in Lawrence Tuesday morning. (Ben Parker/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)

LAWRENCE (WBZ-AM) -- Schools in Lawrence are reopening Tuesday for the first time since the gas explosions and fires last week--and though some semblance of normalcy has returned across the Merrimack Valley, there is still a lot of help needed.

Residents affected are still seeking assistance. Some have been seeking help at Columbia Gas's claims center. Today, with the school building occupied again, that center is moving from the Lawrence High School Learning Center to 1 Market Street.

Residents waited in line in the rain Tuesday morning, hoping to get into the claims center. Many sought reimbursement for things like food lost or hotel expenses during the evacuation. Some were being given tickets and told to return Wednesday.

A recovery resources center staffed by state agencies and disaster relief organizations is open again today--but it is moving from the Arlington Middle School to the Elks Lodge on Andover Street.

Meanwhile, Beacon Hill stands ready to help if needed. Massachusetts House Speaker Bob DeLeo said on WBZ's Nightside with Dan Rea Monday night that he supports a supplemental budget appropriation.

"That's a place where I think that we can be helpful if it becomes necessary again to help people, whether its in their homes, whether its in their businesses or the like that we can be helpful," DeLeo said.

Jamie Melendez, director of Veterans' Services in Lawrence, told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker that they were able to help many people with supplies since the disaster thanks to hundreds of volunteers.

"On Saturday alone, we had maybe 2,500, 3,000 people come through here to receive goods," he said. "That continued into Sunday and into Monday ... Food, water, essentials, toiletries, towels, things that sometimes you don't think of."

He said there was a great need following the evacuations and beyond--and that more supplies would be handed out Tuesday. Melendez said the help has been overwhelming.

"It's times like this where you see the best in people, during the worst times," he said. "And the amount of volunteers that came in--at one point, we had to just start taking names and say, hey, we'll call you when we start to lose volunteers. That never happened."

All day Tuesday at the Senior Center in Lawrence, there's a Department of Veterans' Affairs Mobile Vets Center set up. Craig Hall, who runs the center, said that it normally helps combat veterans who need counseling services--but this week, they're here to help anyone who needs to talk about what happened.

"Normally, what we do is re-adjustment counseling services for combat veterans and their families, but due to the disaster in the area out here, we're out here providing counseling for not just veterans, but for the local community that have been struck by this disaster," Hall said. "You know, whatever's been bothering them. A lot of people have lost everything around here. If they just need someone to talk to, someone to blow off some steam with, that's what we're here for."

WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker (@radiobenparker) reports

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