By Amaris Castillo

A few weeks ago, Caroline Zuk of Saja Farm received a call from her sister about a series of gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

"You've got to be kidding me," Zuk recalled saying.

In shock, she began reaching out to other community activists to find out what they knew and also contacted Town Manager Jim Duggan. She wondered aloud if this could also happen in Dracut.

The following morning, Zuk said she woke up around 4 a.m., to check on the farm and stumbled on a trash bag filled with clothes and a case of bottled water.

"I said, 'Oh, my, they remember when I collected donations for the hurricane,'" Zuk said.

And so began a townwide effort to collect items for those displaced by the gas explosions in the three Merrimack Valley communities.

Dracut residents and local organizations, including Dracut Volunteers, Inc., and End 68 Hours of Hunger have teamed up to gather donations that range from diapers to clothes to canned goods and water.

"It came as somewhat of a surprise, but at the same time, I feel good that we are working toward the common good," Zuk said. "It didn't happen in Dracut, but we're feeling the pain. To see the community coming together, that's what it's all about. With all the bad headlines we see in the news every day, maybe now we can have a few good ones.


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Zuk said she called Josh Taylor, a Dracut resident and president of the Centralville Sportmen's Club, who offered her the club's bus to transport donated items to the Lawrence Senior Center, one of the central locations where donations have poured in since the tragedy struck on Sept. 13. Taylor said he also reached out to his own members for support and additional donations.

"It's great," Taylor said. "It's a lot better effort when you have multiple groups doing something than any one."

Taylor said he has traveled multiple times to Lawrence to drop off items.

Jessica Maille, a Dracut resident and teacher at the Thomson School in North Andover, spent three days after the gas explosions collecting food, toys, clothing, blankets and more for affected families. She said others helped with donations, including members of Christ Church United.

"I am impressed and astounded by how much my community pulled together to help others in their time of need," Maille wrote in an email.

St. Francis Parish in Dracut last week ran a gift-card drive for grocery stores to give to residents of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. According to the parish's communications coordinator, Debbie Hovanasian, the church received nearly $2,400 in gift cards and another $1,000 in cash and checks. In an email, Hovanasian said the money will be directed toward Cor Unum Meal Center, a Catholic organization helping in the recovery in Lawrence.

Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is acastillo@lowellsun.com.