DeKALB – Colleen Parks of Family Service Agency of DeKalb County said her team has been running nonstop since last Tuesday trying to help families displaced in fires, after taking over first-response efforts since the American Red Cross does not have a local office.
“Emotions are high,” Parks said Monday. “This is hard; this is a devastating event to multiple families.”
More than 140 people were displaced from their homes when 808 Ridge Drive was condemned Wednesday after several mattresses were lit on fire in a common area on the third floor during the night, causing residents to leap from the windows to escape the blaze.
A second suspected arson Thursday at 930 Greenbrier Road started when a dryer in the basement was set ablaze. That building also was condemned, bringing the number of residents who lost their homes to almost 200 in two days.
DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said Monday some residents were allowed back in 930 Greenbrier as of Friday night, though six units remain condemned.
Parks said the agency is seeking nonperishable food items, personal items and toiletries, baby items, clothing, gift cards to clothing stores, gas cards and furniture.
Parks said that because the fires occurred near the beginning of the month, many residents had just paid rent and lost that money. Some lost Women, Infants, and Children and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit papers in the fire, too. She and others are putting together emergency packets with items and gift cards to aid families in need.
“We put together packets with gas cards, food, clothing, vouchers for Goodwill and The Country Store,” Parks said. “And if they can’t come to us to get them, let us know and we can come to you.”
Since that time, Family Service Agency, the American Red Cross, Hope Haven, the DeKalb County Community Foundation, Prairie Street Legal, Elder Care Services, Love Inc. (a collaboration of local churches), the DeKalb County Community Gardens, the Voluntary Action Center, local hotels and more are pooling resources. Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris was able set up some decreased-rate rooms at the Hotel at Holmes, a hotel in the Holmes Student Center at Northern Illinois University for residents.
Family Service Agency, 14 Health Services Drive (donations can be dropped off here): Open 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone: 805-758-8616
DeKalb County Community Gardens Grow Mobile (mobile food pantry), 722 N. Annie Glidden Road: Open 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at University Village either inside or outside the Community Center. Free and open to all who live in DeKalb County.
DeKalb County Housing Authority, 310 N. Sixth Street, DeKalb, IL 60115: Open Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Phone: 815-758-2692