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Community pulls together in times of trouble

Joan Hatem-Roy Elder Q&A, Eagle Tribune

Q: Sometime in October you had an article about the gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. That article focused on preventative measures for folks who use natural gas. How are things going in the aftermath of this accident?

A: As we move from crisis to restoration for those affected, we are stronger and more integrated than ever before. The word “community” has taken on special meaning as we have been witness to countless examples of people coming together to support each other. Stories of neighbors helping neighbors, and community members helping businesses bounce back have been heartwarming and abundant. Tragedies have a way of breaking down our biases and growing the human spirit. Unfortunately, tragedies such as this one or the devastating fires in California are a constant reminder of the fragility of life.

Over the past few months, it has been an honor to work with a team of colleagues whose passion and commitment reinforce our purpose. The three communities affected have joined together, and public and private officials, Columbia Gas, as well as numerous nonprofit agencies have worked collectively to help those in need. Emergency assistance sites have been established, thousands of calls and home visits conducted, and financial support distributed to help people meet immediate needs. I am also very proud of the Elder Services staff who have been providing outreach and case management services since the crisis began, and the sense of community that is fostered in our efforts to help residents rebuild their lives.

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