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The Iceman Cometh

Local man returns bearing gifts of free ice and water ... delivered to those who need.

Since Hurricane Irene left a trail of downed power lines on Sunday, ice and water has been a rare commodity.

With thawing freezers has come spoiled food. For some, the need to keep medication refrigerated also has been an issue.

What's a person to do? Call the Iceman.

Actually, his name is Chris Thomas. Thomas, a principal agent for Nationwide Insurance, has been delivering ice and water free of charge to East Hampton residents all week. He's even filled a cooler with bags of ice at the high school each day, which went, as you might expect, pretty quick.

So what's the catch?

"There is really no catch," Thomas said. "There is no obligation here. Ultimately my goal is to let people know that Nationwide is on their side. So, the catch is, if you're thinking of insurance, hopefully you're thinking about the guy who brought you ice.

"Part of the Nationwide core of what we do is to protect our neighbors and that's exactly what my goal is here."

Yeah, well there is more to it than just that.

Thomas has roots firmly planted in town and it was clear from talking to him that though he might live in another town now, his heart is still in East Hampton. Getting fired up for a cause, especially for one in the town he grew up, is nothing new to him.

"I was the president for the youth group all through high school," he said. "My friends were involved as well. We started in middle school and we tried to open the youth center. We did food drives, we did can drives ... it never worked out."

The idea for delivering ice came about at a young age, when Hurricane Gloria left an indelible mark among his childhood memories.

"My parents were young, they had three kids, and they had a freezer full of food," Thomas said. "I remember being 6 years old and being like, 'How come someone just doesn't bring us ice?'"

That was 26 years ago. On Monday, Thomas heard from his father about the damage to the town.

"I knew right away people were going to need ice and water," he said.

So, Thomas put his plan into action, using a four-wheel drive rental truck to help him access the hard-to-get areas.

"I've got about 40 gallons of water with me every day," he said. "I drop off a bunch here [the high school] in the form of bottles, but I have individual gallons that I'm leaving with homeowners. And the ice, they've got my phone number. If they call me, I'll come out to their house."

Thomas also has been assisting other communities, including East Haddam and Marlborough.

"We can commit a gallon of water per household and we've been commiting two bags of ice per household per day," he said. "We've been going through about 300 bags of ice a day and anywhere between 40 to 60 gallons of water."

Though it is free to those in need, it is not free for Thomas, who must be thankful to have had donations to fall back on to afford that much water and ice.

Not exactly. This is all coming out of his pocket, or as Thomas put it, "My weekly paycheck."

"It means a lot to me to be able to help," said Thomas, who plans to continue his deliveries on Thursday but is unsure beyond that.

The Christopher Thomas Agency, based in Middletown, intends to eventually open it's main location on North Main Street in East Hampton once his membership (policyholders) increases. He says it will take about 18 months.

"Once we have 350 members, they [Nationwide] let us open our doors," Thomas said.

Despite his invaluable assistance, Thomas acknowledged the town's response to the storm and remembered back to Gloria when residents were not as fortunate.

"I see this and it's devasting, but it reminds me of Hurricane Gloria and we need to remind ourselves that we're lucky our town has grown enough to be able to get some civil services to them," he said. "We went 14 days without power and there was nobody coming to us. There was no information. There was no high school open, either. It was 100 percent on the townspeople to take care of themselves. That's where my mentality comes from.

Helping others. That mentality has been seen across town all week, but perhaps through no clearer a lens than the Iceman.

Chris Thomas can be reached at 860-539-1843.

Alice C. Stelzer September 01, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Thank you Chris. I appreciate your efforts and your ice.
michael geysen September 02, 2011 at 03:09 AM
Nice job Chris, keep up the good work

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