Bronx Parish Raises $300,000 for Belmont Fire Survivors

Posted on January 24, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Catholic Charities Distributes Funds; Helps Survivors Recover

Survivors of the December 28th Belmont Bronx fire that claimed the lives of eight adults and five children, ages 1 to 63, will share nearly $300,000 thanks to a Go Fund Me online fundraising effort arranged by parishioners of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic church nearby.

The fire in a five-story brick building at the corner of 187th Street and Prospect Avenue, said to have been triggered by a three-year-old playing with matches, swept up the building’s stairway in minutes. Survivors, many hailing from Africa and Central America, and most from families that lived doubled and tripled up in apartments intended for individual families, dashed out in pajamas and socks, shivering outside on a windy 8-degree night, one of the coldest of the year.

Considered the worst fire tragedy in New York City in at least a quarter century,  it also sparked extraordinary heroics.  This includes the significant fundraising by parishioners of  Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church located in the Belmont section of the Bronx, one of the poorest communities in New York.  And it includes, most of all, bravery shown by Lieutenant Emmanuel Mensah, 28, a first-generation immigrant from Ghana home for the holidays from his Army National Guard boot camp.  He ran from his family’s home two doors down from the fire to rescue nearly a half-dozen people, survivors say, and died while returning to save more.

Catholic Charities NY mobilized immediately, sending case managers and senior staff to help survivors. Appointed the fiscal conduit for the generous donations accumulated by neighborhood parishioners, Catholic Charities senior staff, led by Catholic Charities NY Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, sit on a newly formed Unmet Needs Round Table with Mt. Carmel Church Priest Rev. Fr. Jonathan Morris, City Councilman Ritchie Torres and fellow community and religious leaders.

Similar to Lt. Mensah, most of the survivors hale from African nations, says Catholic Charities Bronx Community Services Associate Director Gabriela Rosa, while many others come from South and Central America and had just begun to rebuild their lives in New York.  Already Catholic Charities case managers have helped nearly 40 surviving adults and children.  They gave them gift cards donated by TD Bank and Kmart, provided them with food and clothing, and offered counseling and social service support. The next big step involves working with the survivors and Unmet Needs Roundtable members to divvy up the donations to help them start again.

To honor Lt. Mensah’s bravery, the site of the fire will be named after this hero, said Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, flanked by Lt. Mensah’s father, Kwabena Mensah as well as Fr. Morris, Msgr. Sullivan, Catholic Charities Bronx Regional Director Fr. Eric Cruz and more during a special announcement made in front of the site on Monday, January 22. 

“We’re pulling in every resource we can,” Ms. Rosa says.  “We’re working as a team and that’s why we’re making so much progress helping those hurt by this horrendous tragedy.”

Are you a Belmont Fire victim who still needs help?  Or do you have any other social service needs?

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