Community Mobilizes to Support Families of Those Lost in Fire
Update: On Wednesday, Aug 29, the Chicago Fire Department announced via Twitter that a non working smoke detector was found in the ruins of the fire on South Sacramento Ave. There was no battery in the detector.
Ramiro Rodriguez, pastor of Amor de Dios church, got a call on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 26 informing him about the house fire in Little Village. The caller asked that his church pray for those who died and their families.
By the evening of Aug. 28, the basement of the church was filled with volunteers organizing donations for the families affected by the house fire, which claimed the lives of ten children.
On one side of the room, volunteers parsed through donated bags of pastries and fruit. On the other, a mountain of donations they’d collected for the families who lost children and their homes in the fire lay stacked against the wall. The black trash bags and cardboard boxes were stuffed with clothing, shoes, winter coats, and toys for the surviving children of those families.
The same evening, just blocks from Amor de Dios, community members congregated around the site of the fire, sharing food and listening to music. The crosses and gifts laid in front of the burned home could barely be seen through the crowd of community members busy celebrating life and mourning those they have lost.
Many organizations and members of the Little Village community are working together to collect donations and raise funds for the families impacted by the tragedy.
Enlace, a community organization managing a $100,000 crowdfunding campaign for the family, is also accepting donations. In a press release issued this week, they requested household and hygiene items, as well as gift cards for hot food.
While the Little Village community works hard to help those in need, church volunteer Cristal Castro says they also want answers.
“We know what happened but we don’t know the details. I think that’s what we’re all waiting on.”
There were no smoke detectors found in the house that burned down, which has prompted many conversations about fire safety and preventative safety measures. Monday Aug. 27, the Chicago fire department delivered smoke detectors to homes in Little Village.
In addition to fire safety, Castro thinks housing conditions in Little Village are another contributing factor. “Just walking around you’ll see that there’s some not well-maintained buildings and I think that’s definitely a problem,” she said.
Rodriguez wishes the government would do more to support the neighborhood, and hopes that donations to the crowdfunding campaigns will come from neighborhoods beyond Little Village.
“The poor community is helping the poor people more than the rich people,” he said. “But we already know whoever have money, they want to have more money too. And the poor people, they answer with whatever they can.”
Before sitting down with the other volunteers to enjoy dinner after a long day, Rodriguez gestured towards the children in the room.
“The childrens are the ones giving life to our meetings, to anything, activities,” he said. “And that’s why what happened is so sad. Anybody would have do something to save them, but nobody knew.”
When Rodriguez heard that children had perished in the fire, he immediately thought of his own.
“When I hear the childrens, I remember my childrens,” he said. “I remember my granddaughter, my grandchild, I love them. So I see my childrens through them.”
Rodriguez dedicated the Sunday service to those who passed and their families. He plans to do the same this Sunday as well.