To the editor:
My house caught on fire Oct 21, at 7 a.m. According to the fire marshall, the fire was caused by an old fan that ignited while running in the basement as I was trying to dry out my rug that was wet due to a burst water heater the day before.
I thought I could put it out, as I ran back downstairs the second time with a bucket of water the fire was blazing and had consumed my couch, the wall and was burning on the ceiling. I decided to just get out! I was very lucky!
I ran upstairs, called 911 and then ran out the door with only the clothes on my back.
Since then, I have been overwhelmed by kindness and generosity by the Belmont community. Everyone from past and present employees, all the town sport leagues and great customers have offered to help.
My house has been gutted and everything has been thrown out as the soot from the fire gets into everything. After living in a hotel for 10 days, I’ve moved into a mobile home on my front lawn for the next five months while repairs are being done. The donations have gone to purchase new clothes, towels, blankets, dishes, sheets, pillows, shoes, food and much more.
I wanted to thank everyone who kept me in their prayers, stopped by to give me a hug, dropped off blankets, made me dinner and asked if they could do anything for me and for the generous donations. What a great community!
Please take the time to check your smoke detectors to make sure they’re working properly,
Thanks so much,
Champions Sporting Goods
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.
It’s where your swimmer selected their first goggles and “racing” suit for the Belmont Aquatic Team. Your children’s hockey and figure skates are sharpened downstairs. The beginner’s lacrosse set, soccer cleats size children’s 4 and gloves and bats for minor league youth baseball players were all bought there.
If you’re from Belmont, you got them at Champions Sports Goods in Belmont Center.
And it’s not just a place to outfit your kids: where else can you obtain a “Belmont” cap and T-shirt, a box of baseballs, running shoes and a million other sporting goods? It’s where generations of high schoolers worked their first job, a place to pick up tickets for Belmont High theater productions and the store of the Lucky-size Sneaker Sale.
And who hasn’t used the store as the “official thru way” from the municipal parking lot to Leonard Street?
Champions is not just a sporting goods store but a community amenity; a service and benefit to residents that is becoming an anomaly in the world of retail.
And the face of Champions is Gerry Dickhaut. Easy going, affirmable and a little bit funny, Dickhaut is the business, opening the store in 1988 in his parent’s hometown. He patiently advises customers on the most appropriate equipment, knows where the most obscure items are located and will just stand by the cash register and talk with you about his love of golf – he shots in the 70s on a good day – until a customer comes in.
As president of the Belmont Center Business Association, he fosters events such as Belmont Town Day, Midnight Madness Sales and Belmont Turn on the Town and promotes locally-owned businesses because, as he is fond to point out, two-thirds of every dollar spent at an independent-owned store stays in the local community as opposed to a quarter for national chains.
Last week, Dickhaut lost his home to an electrical fire.
Dickhaut’s friends throughout Belmont have organized a benefit tonight, Monday, Nov.3 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Belmont’s favorite hangout, Conley’s Pub & Grille in Watertown at 164 Belmont St.
Gift card donations (Visa/Mastercard) are welcomed. Every donation will make a difference. In addition, a web donation site is being organized by Belmont Second Soccer.