Optimism High at Oxford Emergency Shelter

Though they are without power, locals are not without cheer.

Although they were inconvenienced by power outages, much of their food at home had spoiled, and they had to shower at a local school, many of the people who flocked to the emergency management shelter at were in good spirits on Monday.

Take, for example, Diana Yetman, who marveled at the fact that the shelter had hot chocolate available for residents, and was happy that her electric bill would be lower than normal.

“My kids started complaining last night, and I said, ‘That’s it; you each have to give me two things that you are thankful for,’” she said. “Once you start that spiral of complaining, it’s not good. We need to stay positive.”

Yetman was one of many people who tried to remain optimistic at the shelter, which saw more than 100 families come in and out throughout Sunday and Monday. About 12 people stayed at the shelter overnight Sunday and more were expected tonight.

Sure the residents faced setbacks – Connecticut Light & Power said that 100 percent of its Oxford customers were still without power as of Monday and probably would be for at least a few more days – but they made the best of a difficult situation.

For example, Yetman, who stayed at her home Sunday night and built a fire with her family, said her 17-year-old son had an early application due online today for the University of Virginia. And, like many teens would, he waited until the last minute to finish it. So, his father took him to Stratford today to someplace with Internet access so he could get the application shipped in the nick of time.

The Yetman family is making memories at home. Diana Yetman said her three teenagers discussed with their parents their favorite memories of childhood. (Who knows, this may turn out to be one their favorite memories of teenage life when look back on it years from now.)

“That is a priceless moment we wouldn’t get if the power were on,” Yetman said. “The kids would probably be in their rooms with the doors locked and plugged in (to the Internet or their cell phones). …Everyone is doing the best they can; it could be worse.”

Like many of those who utilized the shelter, she also thanked local officials and the American Red Cross for their efforts in keeping the shelter running, even thought a boiler malfunction at Oxford High School forced officials to move the location on Sunday. Town officials are keeping Quaker Farms School open all day, probably until the electricity comes back for most residents, so they can shower, get food and drinks, find warmth or a place to sleep, or just to plug in their cell phones or other electronics. Officials are opening Oxford High School for showers between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. today.

At the Quaker Farms shelter, Nancy Degree of Oxford showed her two daughters – Allison, 7, and Samantha, 6 – the importance of giving to others in your community.

On Sunday morning, the Degree girls made cupcakes with their mother that they planned to bring to Oxford Center School for today’s Halloween celebration. However, since school was cancelled today, the dozens of cupcakes would have went bad, so the Degrees brought them to the shelter to share with others.

One of the people thankful for those cupcakes and other food and coffee at the shelter was Cheryl Giampapa.

She said her electricity went out at about 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. When she woke up this morning, it was about 50 degrees, she said.

She said she’s keeping in touch with what’s going on in the state via an old fashioned transistor radio. And she has a generator that keeps meat fresh but doesn’t heat the house.

She said she, too, appreciates that the town opens a shelter for residents. But although the town reaches out to local media and sends messages to residents’ phones via emergency notifications, Giampapa said officials could improve communication with residents. She said that is true of CL&P and state officials as well.

“I think it would be good for them to come down here and talk to us,” she said. “Maybe get down here when there are a lot of people here and have a public forum so we all know what's going on. That would be the only way many of us would know.”

Heidi November 01, 2011 at 01:52 AM
I love hearing stories if kindness
Stephen C. Brown November 01, 2011 at 10:29 AM
Nice work Degree's. Thoughtful as usual. Folks running the shelter are doing some of the most important work that a community can undertake. Unfortunately, we may become very practiced as this if our current trend keeps up. Thanks for everything.
Carol Silkoff November 01, 2011 at 10:48 PM
Oxford is full of compassionate and giving people-you just don't realize it till something like this happens


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