Anne Marie Picone came straight from her second job to Conley’s Pub and Grille on the Watertown side of Belmont Street.
The Belmont resident wasn’t there to watch Monday Night Football or grab a beer.
She came for Gerry.
“My first job ever was working at CVS (in Belmont Center) so I always cut through Champions. I’d always see Gerry and he was absolutely fantastic,” said Picone, describing Gerry Dickhaut, the long-time owner of Champions Sports Goods on Leonard Street.
So when she heard on Facebook Monday that Dickhaut had lost his house to an electrical fire last week, she immediately decided to stop by a benefit Dickhaut’s friends quickly assembled at Conley’s.
“I wanted to make sure I got to donate. Gerry’s a great guy,” she said.
Picone was just one of hundreds of residents, fellow business owners and people who Dickhaut got to know over the years who stopped by to place a donation into an athletic shoe box near the pub’s entry.
Tim Graham, who along with Andrew McLaughlin organized the benefit, opened the box to show it jam-packed with gift cards, checks, packages and cash, all for a man that many are calling a community asset.
“The turn out was absolutely amazing. It’s a Monday night and the place was packed all evening. The generosity was stunning,” said Graham.
According to residents, the money will go to help Dickhaut replace household and personal items destroyed in the fire as well as help pay for living arrangements for the next five months while the house is being restored.
Graham, who like so many other young people worked for Dickhaut while he was at Belmont High School and after college, said he heard a few days ago of Dickhaut’s misfortune “and Gerry is an amazing man who has done so much in the community that we just wanted to do something, anything for him.”
Graham said he couldn’t even make a “guest-imate” of the total contributed, “but I have seen some of the amounts that people have donated and it really is overwhelming.”
“I’m sure Gerry will be blown away. While he’s a very generous person, he’s also quite private so he might feel a bit awkward accepting this. But he’ll be amazed that so many people are thinking of him,” said Graham.