August 12, 2011 in City

‘Incredible’ generosity after apartment fire

Community rallies to help victims who lost everything in north Spokane apartment blaze
By The Spokesman-Review
 
To help

 Mel’s Nursery is especially in need of donations of school supplies and packages of socks and underwear, but has plenty of clothing, employees said.  Furniture will be accepted, but must be dropped off. Donations will be accepted through Sunday at 6 p.m.

 Employees are also seeking volunteers to help sort through donations Saturday and Sunday.

 For more information, call (509) 467-5132.

Tenants who lost everything in a north Spokane apartment complex fire Wednesday found solace in the community’s support Thursday.

Since the three-alarm fire tore through the Peter Square Apartments, donations have poured into Mel’s Nursery, said Diane Newton, a decorator at the nursery, which is located across the street.

“We have an incredibly generous community here,” she said. “It’s incredible.”

When she heard about the blaze, she had the idea of filling one of the nursery’s empty greenhouses with household items for the displaced tenants.

Because the greenhouses are empty this time of year, she figured they may as well be put to use.

The response was overwhelming, she said. Three large greenhouses are filled, and donations are overflowing outside.

Employees have worked long hours to sort the donations, which include clothing, furniture, kitchen utensils, school supplies, toys, hygiene products, food and pet supplies.

“It was just a little light bulb of an idea and it blossomed into this great community outreach to help these victims,” Newton said. “People started immediately dropping stuff off.”

The fire tore through the complex, damaging 23 units – nine severely. All of the more than 40 tenants made it out safely, but many lost everything.

The Spokane Fire Department has not released an official cause yet, but tenants heard it started when a cigarette was tossed in a pile of cedar wood.

“We’re all so thankful that they got out alive,” Newton said.

Quality Inn, located on North Division Street, also pitched in to help the victims. The hotel happened to be upgrading to flat-screen televisions, so they donated the older ones.

“I think it was the right thing to do,” said Ralph Morgan, the hotel’s director of operations. “They’re just down the hill from us, so they’re kind of our neighbors.”

Tayler Shander, 19, was one of the residents whose apartment was completely gutted. She lived there with her boyfriend, Alfonso Ramirez, 19, but has been staying with her grandmother since the fire. They lost many irreplaceable items – their first pictures together, a poem Ramirez wrote for Shander – but were grateful they could replace some necessities at Mel’s on Thursday.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I was not expecting it at all. It really shows how much people care.”

The Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute also donated mattresses from its dorms, and the Red Cross is working with the Union Gospel Mission to store the mattresses until the displaced families find homes, said Megan Snow, Red Cross’ regional director of communications.

In the meantime, Red Cross caseworkers are working with the families to ensure they have food and clothing and assist them in relocating.

“All of the residents are actually doing really well,” Snow said. “They’re actually surprisingly in very good spirits about how things are going.”


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