MILLINOCKET, Maine — Mark Bulley says that if you had asked him two weeks ago what he thought of Millinocket residents, he’d have replied that “they don’t care much about anybody.”
“I really would never have put much stock in most of the people here because they really keep to their own,” Bulley said Wednesday.
But that was before a fire gutted his three-story house at 49 Aroostook Ave. Since that calamitous event, Bulley said, residents have donated hundreds of items to his family, so many that the 45-year-old cabdriver and woodworker has had to return some of the gifts.
“I am overwhelmed,” Bulley said. “They have been so nice and so generous. We are flooded with it now. I can’t believe the generosity of the town. It is just amazing. They have really come out.”
Hundreds of items of clothing, food, paper goods such as paper towels and toiletries have been donated to the Bulleys, including a guest cottage on East Terrace. Still other items, such as furniture, have been declined due to a lack of storage space, said Mark’s wife, 43-year-old Jean Bulley.
“It’s really humbling. The generosity is just enormous,” she said.
The fire apparently began in a clothing dryer at around 8 p.m. Feb. 17 and swept through the house, killing the family dog and several cats, firefighters said. Jean Bulley suffered smoke inhalation while trying to rescue the family’s pets and was treated at Millinocket Regional Hospital.
The house was not insured.
Family friend Laura Manzo and Crystal Anastos, owner of Serenity Salon and Day Spa on Central Street, have organized the relief efforts and with the aid of a few town civic groups are planning fundraisers to help the Bulleys get back on their feet.
They started a nonperishable food drive for the Bulleys on Wednesday. Anyone interested in donating goods or cash can visit the salon from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Anastos said.
“With all the things they have received, you forget about stocking the cabinets with food, so we are starting with that,” Anastos said.
Anastos said she and her husband would pick up items for donation if residents called the salon at 723-5001. A driver for Big MT Cab of Millinocket, Bulley can be reached at 723-2000 if people need rides or want to make donations. Several businesses in town have also set out collection cans and more than $1,000 has been raised, Manzo said.
Manzo encouraged residents to donate to the Bulley family. The family could especially use a storage space in which they could put the furniture they have been offered. Manzo said Millinocket residents commonly come through for one another when tragedy strikes.
“Each and every time something bad happened in my life this town has really pulled through, and I am glad that the same thing is happening for them,” Manzo said of the Bulleys.