‘Incredibly generous’ community helps victims of 26-unit apartment fire on February 10 | News
More than $12,000 has been donated to the White County 100 Families Alliance to help victims of the fire after midnight Feb. 10 that destroyed all 26 park apartments, according to community coordinator Dana Baker.
Baker said the 25 families who lived in the apartments at 1706 E. Moore Ave. “have lost everything”, but “the community has been incredibly generous with monetary donations”.
“Nobody asked or solicited those here, but the money came in,” she said. “…A small portion of this donation has been set aside, by the donor, for toys for the children, but the remainder will go towards long-term housing.
“The vast majority will be used to secure the accommodation by posting deposits, the first month’s rent if required, deposits for utilities, that sort of thing is what the majority of the money will go to.”
All families living in the 57-year-old apartment complex were safely evacuated after the fire was reported at 12:30 a.m., according to Searcy Police and Fire Department. Baker said the Red Cross was there within hours and was able to provide each family with a one-time allowance of $515.
“Most of the families used that money for emergency hotels, for emergency diapers and clothes and that kind of stuff the first night,” Baker said. She also mentioned medication.
The morning after the fire, Baker said White County residents sprang into action and the entire office room of the organization at 1201 E. Race Ave. was filled with clothing donations. Supplies and cash donations also began to pour in.
“Several churches and individuals brought gift cards for restaurants,” Baker said. “We’ve seen many restaurant owners and managers bring restaurant cards for families as well.”
Families affected by the fire began to flock to White County 100 Families Alliance later that afternoon. Baker said there were 14 children, including teenagers, among “just 53 people affected by the fire, with whom we have been in contact”. We know that there is a person who has not contacted us. His employer called and wanted to know if he could be involved, but he never showed up.
She said the organization “began to assess the needs and started to realize that we were serving large families, multi-generational families. Single adults and several older adults were also in the complex.
Over the weekend following the fire, Baker said families were able to visit the resource center and begin shopping for clothes, toiletries, diapers and gift cards for food.
“One church even provided families with a $100 gift card so they could ‘pick up the necessities they needed,’” she said.
Volunteers also went to the resource center to sort through clothing and furniture donations and even helped families purchase the items they were looking for.
On Sunday and Monday, Baker said case managers began helping families apply for a rapid rehousing grant through CAPCA (the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas). “This program is designed to help homeless families get housing fairly quickly. Qualified families were able to obtain 10 days in a hotel.
Case managers, according to Baker, began preparing each family with lists of referral sources in the community for food and rental properties in the area. She said they also provided them with a list of other services.
“The phone kept ringing with other agencies that wanted to provide help,” Baker said, “so we put together a resource guide that each family received with all the types of resources they might need. “
An area church, with the help of many others, began bringing in hotel-style food that could be prepared while displaced residents were in the temporary accommodation on Monday after the fire, Baker said. and families had received “three large boxes of food through Tuesday,” she said. Today, fire victims will receive the last boxes of food.
She noted that the food for their hotel stays has been “a huge blessing to them.” They also received a laundry basket with laundry detergent, fabric softener and other items to take care of their laundry.
The organization’s case managers and interns worked hard with each family, Baker said. “They helped them find resources for housing. We applied for lost SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits. If a family had just gotten their food stamps, they lost all their food in the fire; these perks have also been replaced.
“We helped replace car keys lost in the fire. We helped them file ID to get their driver’s license, social security cards, birth certificates. We have also curated lists of needs that families need for their homes or for their children and put these lists on social media and shared them with community members.
Baker said the group will continue to help families find housing and ask for help until they are all stable. Tuesday afternoon, three of the 25 families were in housing or about to obtain housing. “That still leaves 22 people homeless. We anticipate it will take approximately six to eight weeks before they are all installed.
Families who qualify to be part of the alliance have been registered and will receive ongoing care in 13 crisis areas to which the organization links families. These areas of connection include housing, recovery, employment, transportation, mental health, addiction, their physical health, domestic violence, dental care, money management, food security, custody children and legal aid.
The effort to help families has been a “huge community collaboration,” Baker said. “It shows what kind of people live here in our White County community. We can’t say thank you enough.
“There is no way to list every organization, every individual, every person who has walked through the door to donate clothes, diapers, food, pillows, furniture or gift cards. There’s just no way to thank everyone for all you’ve done, every volunteer who went out of their way to make sure every need was met here. We are so grateful. It just shows what kind of community we have here.
The resource center is dedicated to serving families in crisis, 365 days a year, according to Baker. He receives referrals from the State Division of Child and Family Services, all White County District Courts, Arkansas Community Corrections, schools, therapists, churches and individuals.
The fire was the first “major community crisis” the resource center staff has experienced since it began in 2020, Baker said. She said she felt most of the families affected by the fire would stay in White County. “Two of the families are with families outside of White County at this time.”
Baker said when victims started coming to the center for help, it was the first time they had seen each other since the fire. “They were hugging, crying and sharing their stories; it was quite touching.