By Samaia Hernandez
As published in the Record Journal Saturday November 21, 2009
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WALLINGFORD — Once a loved one is gone, there is no way to bring them back. But quite often it is possible to respond to a tragedy by creating something positive.
That’s what Stephanie Rubin had in mind when she decided to honor her father, and that’s what Town Councilor Nick Economopoulos wanted to do for his friend.
However, the two didn’t know that the community would also be on board.
Hundreds piled into Zandri’s Stillwood Inn Friday evening for the first major fundraiser to raise money to build a women’s and children’s wing at the Wallingford Emergency Shelter, named in honor of Martin Rubin who died in a car accident on Interstate 91 last year.
“To have a turnout like this, you have a town and people who really care,” said Economopoulos, addressing the packed banquet hall.
The shelter, which moved into its location at 123 Quinnipiac St. in 1986, opened Nov. 1 for a six-month season, and has already reached capacity of 15. It can house five women and 10 men for a maximum of 45 days, but cannot accommodate children and families.
Executive Director Thomas Thurber, Economopoulos, the Rubin Family and a host of others are on a mission to expand the facility by the arbitrary date of 2011. If the response continues on the same level as their first event, they may be able to reach the goal sooner.
“We were hoping for something around $10,000,” said Karen Pomarico, treasurer of the event. “We have succeeded that … we’re so overwhelmed by the outpouring of people.”
The initial phase of the fundraising began with a letter- writing campaign soliciting donations to purchase a bed at $500, half bed or quarter bed. Several individuals and organizations responded to the call. Local businesses also chipped in for the cause, offering items to be raffled away.
Peter Chester, who has volunteered at the shelter for more than six years, said it’s one of the most rewarding places to spend his time.
“It’s people who are just down on their luck,” he said.
Former Town Councilor Tom Zappala, who volunteered to open the shelter, received a distinguished award at the event for his service.
And Rubin, a literacy teacher at Cook Hill and Rock Hill schools, was sporting a smile as large as the one her father was making in the blown up image of him which greeted visitors as they entered the room.
“He’s like the example of how people should give in this world,” she said of Martin Rubin, a Holocaust survivor who tended to the needy of his synagogue and taught his daughter the importance of giving. “I’m just so happy.”