Community donates goods to support families impacted by Niles apartment fire

Published 7:45 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

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NILES — Wednesday evening, Karlie Brown was at a loss for words.

Behind her, several volunteers were folding and sorting through donated clothes, food and other items in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church gathering room.

The plethora of goods was the result of a community drive hosted by the church for the families affected by an apartment fire Sunday evening on Fort Street.

Brown and her son, Lloyd, were one of the four families who lost their home in the fire.

“This has been crazy,” Brown said. “It’s just a lot to take in. It’s traumatic what we lost, and now it’s the people reaching out to help like this. I don’t even know how to comprehend it.”

The community drive was organized by Performing Arts Workshops, a nonprofit organization that provides performing arts experiences to youth in the Niles community.

Brown’s cousin, August Garritano, co-founded PAW years ago. Organization member Daysha Amster is a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

Clothes, food, household and bathing items, shoes and gift cards were among the many items donated to the families.

Extra items will be donated to Brandywine Community Schools for students and families in need.

The donations are much appreciated for Brown, whose family is living in a hotel until they find a home or apartment for rent.

“I made a list before I left the hotel room of stuff I needed because it’s like a long-term hotel,” she said. “I needed bath mats, I needed a lamp, and I needed a skillet because the hotel room has a mini-fridge and a microwave. I found it all right here.”

Readers wanting to make clothing and/or financial donations can do so at several local businesses, including CJ’s Pizza and Subs, The Nuggets, Scrapper’s Rescue Corp. and more, during open hours.

According to Brown, restaurant gift cards and gas cards are items the four families sorely need.

“Stuff like that is stuff that people don’t usually think of,” she said. “We still have to eat and we can’t really cook at the moment.

Brown was moved by the amount of support received from the community.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s like God is here.”

Brown’s aunt, Lisa Garritano, is not surprised by the community’s response to the tragedy.

“I have good people around me, and I know once we get together, we get more people together,” she said. “This is how we work.”

While the week began with tragedy for Brown and her family, she believes better days lay ahead for her family thanks to the support of friends, family and community members.

“We lost everything, but we’re going to get it back,” she said.