The families put out of their homes by a massive fire at a apartment building got a little help rebuilding their lives during an event at Guilford Elementary School in Sterling on Monday afternoon.
The gifts from the community of food, household items and toys were capped off by a cash contribution from the Washington Football Team’s Jimmy Moreland and personally delivered by NFL Hall of Fame member Darrell Green.
“It’s a great honor for us to stand beside each one of you families, to try to add a little bit of a blessing to you life today,” Green told the gathered families May 17, speaking through Alexa Dasilva who interpreted.
According to Loudoun Fire-Rescue, 56 people were displaced from 20 apartments on Chase Heritage Circle by the fire April 30. It left those families, many low-income and without savings, with their belongings destroyed and looking for a home. The American Red Cross has put them in temporary accommodations while people and organizations in the community rally to help them.
“This is what community looks like,” said Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian), who also attended and brought toys. “The community has come together because we love you and support you. We know that what you are receiving today can in no way replace what you have lost, and our heart breaks for you.”
Monday’s event was organized by April Taylor, founder of Catch A Meal. She contacted the school to see how she could help, and within a week the Sterling community rallied. The Catch A Meal Community Relief Giveaway was hosted with support from a broad array of organizations, also including Northern Virginia Food Rescue, the Loudoun Chapter of Moms Demand Action, Grace Covenant Church, the Loudoun League of Women Voters, the Fairfax County Policy Department Victim Services Division, the Ashburn Home Depot, the Sterling Office Depot, F22 Video Solutions, TPM Group and The SVE Firm.
Their support also will go into establishing the Guilford Elementary Pantry, which will be available to all of the students.
“This is more of a privilege for us to serve people,” Green said. “We could all be sick and in the hospital. We could all be with the people that the house burned down. We didn’t get to pick our parents, our nation, our nationality, our time, our season, our year for living, and so all these kinds of things are a privilege.”
Green also said he hoped the event inspired other people to something to help the people around them—”make them sit on their sofas and think, ‘you know, I could have went over there today.’ You sure could have!”
He said in every community, there are people all around to help out—something as simple as mowing the lawn for a neighbor and keeping company a lonesome older person.
“[Moreland] comes from a very strong family, and he was raised very well,” said Joseph Seriki, who attended while Moreland was busy with a family matter. “So community has been something that’s always important to him.”
The effort to help those families continues. New Virginia Majority has established a GoFundMe page to collect monetary donations for those impacted by the fire. The money will be distributed directly to families, including food, clothes, and rent money for their new homes.
Donations are atgofundme.com/f/funds-for-chase-heritage-fire-survivors.
The county government also issued a call for help on Friday, asking property owners in the Sterling, Cascades, and Ashburn areas in need of tenants, or people aware of property owners searching for tenants, to contact the county. They can contact Christine Hillock, Community Development Specialist with the Office of Housing, with available housing options and suggestions, as well as for questions and more information by email firstname.lastname@example.org phone at 703-771-5590.
“I’m hoping that the cynicism dies out and people come back to a place where just, really, human beings matter,” Green said.