BRATTLEBORO >> Local organizations are marshalling support for families displaced by a devastating fire in a 12-unit affordable housing development on Valgar Street.
Southeast Vermont Community Action, the local community action agency serving Windham County, is now collecting donations from the public to provide assistance to these families.
The fire, which started in the early morning hours of Nov. 7, forced the evacuation of the building's 45 residents, most of whom are still in temporary shelter. Some families lost everything — clothing, furniture, food, photos, and family keepsakes. Donations will be used to help those displaced by the fire to meet their basic needs, secure alternative housing, acquire basic personal and household items, and begin to re-build their lives. SEVCA is working closely with Windham& Windsor Housing Trust, the owners of the building, to coordinate services and support to affected residents.
"SEVCA has a lot of experience in responding to local disasters, such as Tropical Storm Irene and the Brooks House fire in downtown Brattleboro, and we're in a good position to coordinate local resources and assistance to make sure the families affected by this fire can get back on their feet," said Pat Burke, Director of Family Services at SEVCA.
Checks can be sent to SEVCA at 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT 05158, and online donations can be made by clicking the "Donate" button on SEVCA's home page, www.sevca.org. Please be sure to include a note that indicates the donation is intended for victims of the Valgar Street fire. SEVCA is also compiling a list of items (furniture, clothing, etc.) that people may want to donate to help these families — call 800-464-9951 for more information about donating.
Leigh-Ann Cwikowski from Love It Twice is directly helping three families and asked folks to think about what they are donating.
"People are dropping off unusable clothes and other items," she said. "We are appreciative of the help, but we don't need clothes with holes in it or used socks and underwear."
Cwikowski is also working with donors who have furniture they would like to give to the displaced families. But she said she has no room for furniture at Love It Twice's new location on Putney Road near the Marina Restaurant. Right now, donors are keeping the furniture in their own garages or storage sheds.
"This is an emotional time for these families," said Cwikowski. "We are dealing with the direct impact on small children who really don't understand why they don't have a home and why they are living in a hotel. They have lost things that are really important to them."
Cwikowski said if people really want to help the families, they should consider donating gift cards at local grocery stores or restaurants because living in a hotel means they have no place to cook food.
For more information on how to help, find Love It Twice on Facebook.