Twenty-five Woodside residents received a welcome Christmas gift from the community after an impromptu charity drive provided them with 2,500 essential items. The charity drive was organized by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Pastor Daniel Gilland, and the American Red Cross, who have been helping those displaced by the Nov. 18th fire that left two Woodside homes uninhabitable.
“Today, I am impressed with the generosity of our neighbors,” Van Bramer said as he presented families with donated items that included food, clothing, household products, and toys.
“I had high expectations for this effort,” said Gilland, a pastor with the Grace Gospel Worship Groups, “but the people of Queens exceeded those expectations.”
Donations were initially taken at Van Bramer’s office and at libraries in Sunnyside, Woodside, Sunnyside, Astoria, and Long Island City. But soon, libraries from all across Queens joined in, and though the drive is officially over, contributions are still coming in.
Along with private individuals, the office of Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens-Bronx) sent in donations, as well as the Rainbow Christian school, the Sunnyside Moms community group, and South Pole discount store on Queens Boulevard.
IS 25 in Flushing sent 10 boxes of donated items, and PS 11 in Woodside is currently planning a donation drive.
“Things have been rough, but it’s great to see people helping others in a time of need,” said Fausto Campos, one of the Woodside residents who lost their homes.
The donation drive was announced by Van Bramer, Gilland, and the Red Cross on Dec. 12. The recipients were victims of the two-alarm fire that destroyed the home at 40-38 61 St. and severely damaged an adjacent home on Nov. 18 One person was killed in the blaze, and four more were injured.
Of the 25 people left homeless by the fire, four were children, including an infant, a 3-year-old boy, and a 9-year-old girl.
Since the blaze, the victims have been taken care of by relatives and by the Red Cross, which has been helping those without family in the area by putting them up in local hotels at the organization’s expense. The Red Cross is also providing medical aid and mental health counseling.
Corwin Smith, the manager of external affairs for the agency’s Metropolitan New York chapter, said that helping find new homes for the displaced people won’t be easy.
“The most important thing that these people can do is keep in touch with us,” Smith said. “It’s hard to find a place to live in New York City, but with our help and the help of the councilman’s office, the process of finding new homes for these people can be a little easier.”
Gilland, who lives near the buildings affected by the fire, also emphasized that the volunteers’ work is not finished yet.
“We have to follow up,” he said. “We have to continue helping these people as long as they need it.”
For now, the people who lost their homes have some necessities, some gifts, and the knowledge that the spirit of giving is alive and well in Queens.