Pizza fundraiser offers support to Monroe family displaced by fire

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Katie Kuban searches for a family's order during a pizza fundraiser for the Stepkoski family at Stepney Crossing Tuesday.

MONROE, CT — A pizza truck in the Stepney Crossing parking lot on Main Street gave townspeople a way to rally around the Stepkoski family Tuesday, after a condo fire at Great Oak Farm on Sept. 10 temporarily displaced them from their home.

Dave Kuban, owner of Dave’s Mobile Planet Pizza in Norwalk, lives in Monroe and he and his wife Katie’s kids go to school with Adrienne and Thomas Stepkoski’s two children, MacKenzie, 13, and Carter, 8.

“My wife said, ‘let’s donate a couple hundred bucks to the family,’ and I said, ‘let’s sell pizzas and triple the donation,'” Kuban recalled, while kneading dough for a pizza pie.

Thomas and Adrienne Stepkoski with their two children, MacKenzie, 13, and Carter, 8. Photo by Kelley Hangos-Carrano

Kuban said a man from Manhattan donated use of his pizza oven and Napoli Foods in Cheshire donated $1,000 worth of ingredients for the cause. One hundred percent of the sales will go directly to the Stepkoskis, along with the money people left in a donation bucket.

Kuban made pizzas, running the operation with the help of his wife, his brother-in-law Carlos Gonzales, manager Choco Rojas, assistant Danny Rojas and manager Angel Ramirez.

Barbara Fahr thanked the Sippin family for allowing the pizza truck to use their parking lot at Stepney Crossing.

Adrienne Stepkoski, who is known throughout the town for her generosity,  is still getting used to receiving help from others.

Dave Kuban, owner of Dave’s Mobile Planet Pizza, spreads tomato sauce on a pie Tuesday, while making pizzas in the Stepney Crossing parking lot at 435 Main St.

“So many people love this lady,” Kuban said, adding of the preorders, “50 pies turned into 100 pies, then to 120. Now we’re at 325 and that’s where it maxed out at.”

Stepkoski, a registered nurse at Stamford Hospital, is known around town for starting a Facebook page to organize Birthday Parades at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing people to safely celebrate special occasions.

“She is absolutely amazing,” said Jennie Kerigan, a family friend. “I do not know what our town would do without Adrienne, between the Girl Scouts and all of the volunteering through the school PTO. If you need a pair of socks, she’ll give it to you.”

Stepkoski is a member of ADAM, Monroe’s local prevention council which strives to protect youths from drug and alcohol abuse. She is also active on the Monroe’s Healthy Helpers Facebook page, where residents offer to assist their neighbors with anything from food donations to running errands.

Lining up for pies

Kuban was setting up the pizza oven, his Planet Pizza truck and a tent for people to pick up their orders at 7 a.m. and said he planned to be out there until he ran out of dough.

By the afternoon, people started lining up for pies. Among them was Mery Nartowicz, who came with her son to pick up pepperoni and tomato basil pizzas.

“We are actually new to Monroe,” she said, “so I found out about this through Facebook and we just came out to give them a hand and have dinner.”

Monroe Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Catalano carries a stack of pizzas donated to the firehouse.

Monroe Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Catalano carried a stack of 10 boxes of pizza to his SUV. In appreciation of firefighters who responded to the condo fire at Great Oak Farm, he said people bought 27 pies for the firehouse.

“We shared some with the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service and the Police Department,” Catalano said.

‘Extremely heartwarming’

The Stepkoskis stopped by Stepney Crossing for dinner early Tuesday evening.

“It’s extremely heartwarming to see how the community has been so supportive in such a short period of time,” Adrienne Stepkoski said. “Within hours after the fire people were already buying clothes for us to wear and offering homes to stay in. They made sure we had breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is an outpouring of love in Monroe. Literally, people gave us shirts off their backs.”

“It’s really kind,” said Stepkoski’s eight-year-old-son Carter. “My heart is beating fast, because it feels good.”

Adrienne and Thomas Stepkoski with their children, MacKenzie, 13, and Carter, 8, and Adrienne’s cousin, Naomi Ribeiro, second from left, and her daughter Violet, 3.

Stepkoski expressed her gratitude for the generosity of Dave and Katie Kuban and Dave’s business.

“Planet Pizza has always gone above and beyond to help people in their community, whether it’s getting toys for children in need at Christmas, or getting food to essential workers at Norwalk Hospital at the height of the pandemic,” Stepkoski said.

“It’s amazing how the community came together, and for such a wonderful family that’s always supportive of their community,” Katie Kuban said of the Stepkoskis.

Counting blessings

On Sept. 10, the fire started in the laundry room, which is centrally located in the Stepkoskis’ home, before spreading to the hallway and kitchen.

The unit sustained heavy heat and smoke damage throughout, especially upstairs. Stepkoski said the basement and first floor have extensive water damage from firefighters’ extinguishing the fire.

“It’s estimated we’ll be out of our house for approximately one year,” she said. “We’re staying at a hotel.”

Despite the setback from the fire, Stepkoski said her family is thankful for many things, especially their health and safety.

“We’re still going strong, because of the love and support of our family, friends and the community,” she said. “We have a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food to eat, which makes us feel truly blessed.”

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