LINCOLN — As administrator of the Oasis Senior Center in Lincoln, Dominic Dalpoas is accustomed to getting calls from the building’s security system, identifying a smoke alarm going off or some other routine matter.
So when he received a call recently while sitting in his Lincoln home, he wasn’t immediately alarmed.
“We were having heavy rains, and the last thing I thought of was an actual fire,” he said. “I still came to the building to make sure what was causing it. It’s almost always nothing except for some kind of drip into a sensor or something. But when I entered and saw smoke and then heard the sirens and the fire department arrive I knew I had bigger problems than just a leak in the system.”
Just a few minutes earlier, at 5:23 p.m. June 21, the Lincoln Fire Department began receiving calls from passers-by and nearby business owners of light smoke coming from the roof of the center at 501 Pulaski St.
Lightning had struck an unused TV tower on the top of the building, sparking a fire in the attic, said Lincoln fire investigator Tim Aper. A total of 15 fire departments and five support agencies responded with one fire crew staying overnight, to look for rekindling fires. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries.
Since then, Dalpoas’ phone has been ringing off the hook — he got 51 different calls to his home phone on one day alone last week.
“The response has been overwhelming,” he said. “It has been a very humbling experience. Everybody is reaching out to help us. Every civic organization, nursing home facility and the hospital have offered assistance and are willing to host events or activities.”
The Oasis Senior Center has 849 active members, Dalpoas said.
“But you don’t have to be a member to benefit from our services, and every year about 3,500 to 4,000 people are touched by our programs in one way or another,” he said.
The center has a 21-member board, and Dalpoas said several decisions will have to be made quickly so the center can return to normal operations as quickly as possible. A structural engineer was will evaluate the center and see if it is still useable.
At this point, seniors who used the center don’t have a designated place to go, but Dalpoas thinks none of the programs will be adversely affected.
“We get a lot of funding and grant money, and so we have obligations to fill and we will fulfill those obligations,” he said. “Our goal is that by July 15 we will have a new and temporary location so that we can provide the services we have promised.”
Dalpoas said the center, which is insured, will need additional funding, and contributions are appreciated. Donations can be mailed to the center.
“We are going to be actively running a campaign to kind of rebuild ourselves in the community,” he said. “But this is a wonderful community, and I know that we will overcome this and be stronger.”