As someone who grew up eating Blood Farm roasts and hams for the holidays, and has featured its bacon on her restaurant’s pizzas, Maria Borino just had to help out when the Groton landmark burned down.
Borino, a Westford resident and Nashua pizza shop owner, is one of many in the region who have stepped up to help the Blood family and employees after a December fire that destroyed the West Main Street slaughterhouse and put 20 people out of work.
“They are hard-working, blue-collar people, and unemployment insurance is not going to cut it for them,’’ said Borino.
As the family looks to rebuild, the Blood Farm Assistance Group has put together a Facebook page (Blood Farm Employee Fire Assistance) and website (www.bloodfarmgroton.com), and organized a fund-raiser to help the employees make ends meet until the farm reopens.
All of the employees can have their jobs back when the business reopens, but they still have bills to pay and food to put on the table until then, said Jack Petropoulos, a Groton selectman. Petropoulos said the employees are looking for work in the meantime, but some of their skills, such as meat cutting, are not easily transferrable. For some of the employees who have worked at the farm for 20 years, it’s the only job they know, he said.
Petropoulos said the group hopes to raise about $116,000, which would be enough to provide employees with about $1,000 a month until they find new jobs or the farm reopens.
“We’re realistic in saying that anything is appreciated,’’ Petropoulos said.
The money would go toward bills such as rent, food, and fuel.
“It’s for some of the bare necessities,’’ Petropoulos said. “We’re not paying for phone bills or medical expenses or things that can be deferred but we are trying to keep the lights on.’’
In addition to money, donations of food or firewood are also being accepted. People can donate through the employee assistance website or send in a donation to the Groton Community Foundation, PO Box 515, Groton, MA 01450.
Meanwhile, state Representative Sheila Harrington of Groton is coordinating a fund-raising event for 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Barn at Gibbet Hill, which has donated the space. The benefit will feature music, food from local establishments, and a cash bar. Donations will be accepted at the door, and all proceeds will benefit the employee assistance fund, Harrington said.
“It’s been an enormous outpouring of support,’’ Harrington said. “It’s really been a collaborative effort with a lot of people. People in this area really care about people and know there are employees that have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their work. They want to make sure they are OK and that we’re taking care of our own.’’
Harrington is also working with Blood Farm, the state Farm Bureau, and Blood’s insurance companies to move the rebuilding process along. Blood Farm was one of just two federally approved slaughterhouses in the state, so its loss has had an impact on farmers throughout the region.
“Blood Farm has been here for generations and is really a landmark here in the area,’’ Harrington said.
The slaughterhouse, butcher shop, and smoke-house business date to the Civil War; the family farm itself is more than a century older.
Local residents say the quality of the meats, the atmosphere of the retail store, and the staff’s ability to custom-cut and prepare almost any cut of beef, pork, or poultry earned it a devoted following. Blood Farm also bought and processed hard-to-find meats, such as rabbit and goat, and was known for its preparation of deer brought in by hunters.
Sharon Blood, the farm’s office manager, said the owners have been meeting with an architect to go over the plans for the new space with the hope of having the work done by the fall. She said part of the burned-out building is coming down, but they are hoping to save some of the walls.
She said the Bloods have been amazed by the support from the community not only for the farm but the employees.
“It’s quite amazing to watch,’’ she said. “It feels good to live in a town like this.’’Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at jflefferts@ yahoo.com.