Bank steps forward to aid nonprofit after fire

Ion Bank CEO David J. Rotatori, left, talks with Wellmore Behavioral Health CEO Gary Steck Thursday at the former Ion Insurance office at 24 Cherry St. in Naugatuck. Ion Bank donated the use of the office to Wellmore after a fire destroyed the organization’s Naugatuck office. -ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — There were some scary moments after a fire completely destroyed an office Wellmore Behavioral Health leased in a mixed-use building on Meadow Street early this week.

“We were wondering, are we going to be able to come back? How do you overcome this? We don’t have a lot of experience dealing with catastrophes,” Wellmore CEO Gary Steck said.

One thing the Waterbury-based nonprofit organization doesn’t have to worry about anymore is finding a temporary location to operate in Naugatuck. Ion Bank is donating the use of its former Ion Insurance office, which moved to Cheshire last year, at 24 Cherry St. to the organization.

“This allows us to take a breath and keep the focus really on the clients,” Steck said.

A fire broke out Sunday night in the mixed-use building at 150-152 Meadow St. where Wellmore leased the first floor. While firefighters saved the building, the fire destroyed the inside of the building. Wellmore and a woman who lived on the second floor were displaced.

Fire Marshal Robert Weaver said the fire started in an office in the rear of the first floor. While the cause remains under investigation, he said it appears to be connected to an electronic device.

“All evidence indicates it was accidental at this point,” Weaver said.

The day after the fire, Ion Bank officials reached out to offer the space on Cherry Street to Wellmore.

“Our mission is to serve the community — first priority. So it was a no-brainer,” Ion Bank CEO David J. Rotatori said.

On Thursday, Ion Bank employees were busy prepping the infrastructure for Wellmore’s temporary office. Steck expects the office to be up and running on Tuesday. He said the organization will operate at the office for about three months while it looks for a new permanent home in Naugatuck.

“We’ve been here for 25 years. And while we obviously never dreamed of something like this happening, it’s great to know the community can rally,” Steck said.

Wellmore is seeking donations to help rebuild. For information, visit www.wellmore.org.