With an abundance of donations to fire victims, organizers urge monetary support

Volunteers sort through clothing donations on Monday, Jan. 10, at the Gambian Youth Center, 214 E. 181 St.
Photos Adrian Childress

Too much too soon!

People eager to help residents impacted by the fire Sunday at the Twin Parks North West apartment complex, 333 E. 181 St., accumulated heaping piles of donations on Monday in an outpouring of support that stretched far beyond the Bronx’s geographic boundaries.

Organizers have urged people to stop donating items, and donate financially instead.

“We’re just trying to process everyone’s needs,” State Sen. Gustavo Rivera told Bronx Community Board 5 Monday night, emphasizing that no more physical donations are needed.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have also been raised for the victims over the course of just a couple of days.

The Red Cross provided emergency housing in local Bronx hotels to 22 families that consisted of 56 adults and 25 children Sunday night, which rose to 34 families consisting of 124 people Monday night, Red Cross spokesman Michael de Vulpillieres told the Bronx Times. Other residents of the 118-unit building found lodging through family, friends and community support. While all residents were displaced Sunday, floors 12 and up were permitted to return Monday, according to Vulpillieres.

Clothing donations were delivered from community groups to the Masjid-Ur-Rahmah mosque to be stored on Monday, Jan. 10.

Councilman Oswald Feliz, whose district includes the Fordham Heights neighborhood where the fire occured, told the Bronx Times Tuesday morning that families will continue to move back home Tuesday and Wednesday. The next step is assessing the extent of the property damage and seeing what needs to be replaced.

He said people from all over New York state, and even as far as Baltimore, have offered support.

“We are so privileged and lucky to have so many people willing to help some of our most vulnerable communities in times of tragedy,” Feliz said. “We received a lot of clothing, a lot of food — more than we can eat — which is a great thing.”

Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez, who represents the district next door, said an excess of perishables were passed on to other community organizations who could consume them in time.

Members of Masbia Soup Kitchen hand out hot food outside of the Masjib-Ur-Rahman mosque for victims of the fire and volunteers gathering donations on Monday, Jan. 10.

“We’ve been overwhelmed at many different places with physical goods donations,” she told the Bronx Times Monday evening. “We’re so thankful and it’s so beautifully reflective of the solidarity that is outpouring from different parts of the city and the Bronx.”

Sanchez said the hefty amount of physical donations from Monday poses a “logistical challenge.” Meanwhile, financial donations are easier to disseminate and allow families to self-determine their needs.

East 181st Street’s Gambian Youth Organization collected items Monday — receiving so many donations they had to close their doors to more — and also created a GoFundMe for financial donations.

Volunteers sort donations for Bronixtes impacted by the fire at Ustin Hall at Monroe College on Monday, Jan. 10.

As of Monday morning, the organization raised $328,173 across 6,500 donations. By the evening, it reached more than $600,000. At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the funds exceeded $800,000. The goal was initially set at $200,000.

The New York City Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City also created a fund for impacted residents, but on Tuesday the mayor’s office declined to share how much the fund had raised.

The Bronx Community Foundation is also collecting monetary donations for affected families through Jan. 17; the Salvation Army New York Division set up a Bronx Fire Relief Fund; and FoodtoEat founder Deepti Sharma raised $6,865 on a separate GoFundMe for those impacted by the fire, as of 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Bronxites impacted by the fire pick up donations from Ustin Hall at Monroe College on Monday, Jan. 10.

On Monday, drop-off locations for donations were set up through the Bronx Democratic Party at state Assemblywoman Yudelka Tapia’s Jerome Avenue office, Rivera’s Grand Concourse office and Feliz’s East Fordham Road office.

The Democrats’ sites were planning to accept items throughout the week, but after an abundance of donations on Monday, the Red Cross said they no longer need physical donations, so the sites will only accept gift cards and monetary donations for the duration of the week.

A resident impacted by the fire exits Ustin Hall at Monroe College with donations in hand on Monday, Jan. 10.

The city’s Office of Emergency Management set up shop at Monroe College’s Ustin Hall on Jerome Avenue, and is continuing to offer resources to families impacted. The college site also accepted drop-off donations Monday.

People impacted by the fire receiving emergency services were able to walk down the hall Monday to directly pick out dropped-off items, and donations from other collection sites are being transferred there. At the center, various city agencies have been offering services to the impacted residents, such as housing, mental health, identification, burial and food assistance.

Social media was buzzing on Monday with local groups organizing their own collections sites for the families. Feliz said his office has been coordinating with organizations to make sure the donations get into the hands of the victims as soon as possible.

The Bronx Woodlawn Collective estimated volunteers collected between 200 and 300 garbage bags of donations in just a few hours. The Riverdale Jewish Center received about 200 bags of clothes, supplies and food in 24 hours. Bronx Community Board 10 collected more than a dozen large garbage bags of clothes.

The Anthony Avenue Garden, NYC Department of Education Bronx Borough Office, Ink Gentz Tattoo Gallery, Take Back the Bronx, SAR Academy and Westchester County’s Pelham Picture House also hosted collected sites.

United States Postal Service workers whose routes included deliveries to Twin Parks North West for years used a postal truck to transfer donations from mutual aid groups to Mosque Masjid-Ur-Rahmah — which people displaced from the fire are members of — where donations were stored.

Chocobar Cortés is donating the proceeds from hot chocolate sales this week to the Mayor’s Fund and expects to sell 500-600 hot chocolates that range in price from $4.50-$7.25.

Sheikh Musa Drammeh from the Muslim Media Corporation told the Bronx Times that organizers will ensure all funds raised across entities will reach the victims.

Yadhira González-Taylor, an attorney from the Bronx, is organizing lawyers, law students and paralegals who can help provide pro-bono legal services for the families affected by the fire.

U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Feliz and Sanchez teamed up to create a task force Monday that will ensure the families impacted by the blaze are getting the support they need and embark on a mission to prevent future tragedies from a policy standpoint, from looking at space-heater manufacturing guidelines to fines for doors not self-closing.

“Everything, at every level of government, will be on the table for discussion,” Sanchez said.

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.