Berwick residents and businesses are rallying to support the families displaced by the apartment building fire in which a local firefighter died.

The fire at 10 Bell St. on Friday displaced 10 people, including several children. Capt. Joel Barnes, a 32-year-old paramedic who served as the Berwick Fire and Rescue training officer and emergency services coordinator, died in the fire and was credited with saving the life of another firefighter by shielding him from the intensity of the flames.

Shortly after the fire, Berwick residents and local businesses began collecting items to help the people displaced by the fire. Kathy Sheedy, who has helped collect and distribute clothing and gift cards, said she was not surprised the small town would step up to help.

“We are definitely a town that rallies around families and students,” she said.

Berwick, which has about 7,000 residents, sits on the Maine-New Hampshire border in western York County.

For three days this week, donations of new socks and underwear and gift cards were collected and sorted by volunteers with the Community Closet at the Berwick United Methodist Church. Those items are being distributed to the displaced residents.


Because there was such an outpouring of donations, extra toiletries were donated to the House of Hope Mission and the Berwick-Somersworth Food Pantry, Sheedy said.

Sheedy said a number of local businesses also have made donations. The Aroma Joe’s in North Berwick collected donations for two teenagers displaced by the fire and offered discounts to people who donated. J.C. Penney in Rochester, New Hampshire, also donated gift cards.

The Corner Point Brewing Company is holding a “Fill the Boot” drive to collect money in support of the Berwick Fire Department. Donations will be collected through Sunday, when a public memorial service for Barnes is scheduled to be held in Portland. During the first weekend of the drive, the brewery had collected more than $2,000.

On Saturday, Balata Fitness in North Berwick will host a self-defense seminar in honor of Barnes. The two-hour seminar will be led by former professional mixed martial arts fighter Adam Toussaint. All donations collected from participants will go directly to the Berwick Volunteer Firefighters Association.

The Berwick Winter Farmers’ Market on Sunday will hold a food drive for residents of the Bell Street building. Donations of nonperishable food and gift cards also will be collected during the farmers market on April 14. The market is held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Berwick Town Hall.

Barnes’ family has asked that donations made in his name go to the Berwick Volunteer Firefighters Association, care of Kennebunk Saving Bank, 2 School St., Berwick 03901.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: grahamgillian

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