Response to a family left homeless by a fire

I live in a pretty good town. Three families recently lost their apartment in a fire, and the second grade teacher of one of the kids asked for help on a local parents’ group list. There was a huge wave of support. I love it that it wasn’t just *stuff* donated, but practical help for the family, cash, transport, help to the teacher who was organizing efforts, help doing the really hard bit which is interfacing with the necessary civic bureaucracies, and now continuing work to help find them a place to live.

I learned from the emails that Clifford Elementary has a clothes closet swap room. Isn’t that a great idea? Every school should have a swap room! Let people bring in kids’ clothes, toys, school supplies, non-perishable food, and anything at all in good condition. Parents would surely volunteer to keep the room organized and clean. And since it’s all free, you wouldn’t have to lock it up or keep it specially staffed. Have it open after school and after-care when parents might be picking up their kids. I’m curious for the details of how the Clifford swap room works!

I had sarcastic things to say about Katrina relief donations of stuff, though so much of it was well done and well organized and certainly well meaning. This small local effort looks very smart to me, connecting with resources already in place while mobilizing community members directly. What do you think? What would you add to this if you were contributing?

Good Morning Everyone-

I am writing this email today to express my gratitude to all of you who have helped support my student and his family. I am truly amazed at how one email and one Facebook posting turned into a county wide collaboration! My life and my home has been consumed with the generosity of you all. I have received clothing, some of which was bought personally for the children in the family, bikes, scooters, furniture, household items, TVs, toys, books, money, giftcards and a generous donation by PODS to store the items for free! I have also had people help deliver, transport and store items. This has been so helpful as I am just one person.

I want to especially thank all of the parents from Clifford Elementary School in Redwood City. The support and generosity from you all has been amazing!!! You made a difference in the lives of 13 people!!!

My students family is still homeless, as they are having difficulties finding a place to rent. The rental market is tough right now. They have been relocated to a hotel in San Mateo for now.

This is still an ongoing effort. I have written a proposal to the Redwood City
Fire Departments “Give a Smile” Foundation. This is a foundation headed by a fire Captain in the city to help families who have been through tragedy. I am still awaiting a reply from them. I hope they are able to help. Also, on June 5th there will be a BBQ fundraiser in RWC at Spinas Park. Myself, Janet Borgens and the Redwood City Fire Department will be putting on this event. ALL proceeds will go directly to the family. More information to come later. I am still collecting items for the family. I have been making daily drop offs to them and they are truly grateful. The mother said to me yesterday “I can’t believe that people want to help us”. She was speechless. If you have furniture you would like to donate, please email me directly.

Once again, I want to thank all of you for helping me get this family back on their feet. I am in awe!

Yours Truly,

Michelle Territo
2nd Grade Teacher
Fair Oaks School

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