Community rallies around Cambridge fire victims
Residents, community groups and local businesses are rallying to raise funds for more than a dozen people displaced by a Feb. 12 fire at 240 Prospect St. But the only problem is that they are having a hard time finding some of the victims, so they are requesting the public’s assistance.
Days after a three-alarm fire ripped through a triple-decker in Cambridge’s Area 4 neighborhood, Dana Jay Bein organized a fundraiser at ImprovBoston. As head of the Standup Comedy Program at the club, a regular at Bukowski’s Tavern in Inman Square, and a neighbor himself, Bein said he had to do something when he heard about the fire, which killed one woman, Farzana Khan, 58.
“The reason I do comedy is that laughter is the shortest distance between two people,” Bein said. “I saw what happened and thought, ‘That could have been me.’”
At ImprovBoston’s regular Sunday night show on Feb. 16, just four days after the fire, he helped raise several hundred of dollars for those displaced. Three days later, Justin Lipata, general manager at Bukowski’s, offered to donate all of his tips at the bar to the victims, prompted in part by Bein and in part by the bar’s own neighborhood-centered ethos.
In the wake of the fire, more people emerged offering to help. After reading the story in the Chronicle, a former Cambridge resident, Molly Zeff, said she was working on getting donations of clothing, furniture and other home goods to give to the displaced residents.
And, just this week, members of the Area 4 Neighborhood Coalition said they would be looking at whether or not the residents qualify for the group’s fire emergency fund, according to one of the co-chairs, Richard Goldberg. Goldberg said the money was given to the group as part of an urban development grant years ago and is managed by the Cambridge Community Development Department.
Goldberg said he wasn’t quite sure if the residents would qualify for the funds – they have to live in the area and demonstrate that they are in need of the resources – but said it was likely they would.
“The fund was designed to help folks who fit this description,” Goldberg said, adding a social worker from the city actually vets the recipients before they are able to release the funds. “It seems like this was a real tragedy, and we have the funds for precisely this sad eventuality in the neighborhood.”
But, despite all the goodwill, Bein said he’s only been able to contact nine or 10 of the people living at 238 Prospect St., which suffered damage from the fire and will need renovations that could last 6-8 months. He hasn’t been as successful reaching the seven people displaced from 240 Prospect St., where the fire originated and where most of the damage occurred.
Bein said he believes the residents are not native English speakers and may not be familiar with the city’s services. The woman who died in the fire, Farzana Khan, was a Pakistani national, according to authorities, and was staying with some people in the building. Acquaintances of Khan who spoke with the Chronicle said they did not know the people she was living with.
Bein is looking to coordinate a “pow wow” with the people displaced from the fire in order to distribute the roughly $3,000 he’s already raised and help distribute any other donated resources. In the meantime, he’s looking for anyone to help him locate the residents displaced from 240 Prospect St. Anyone with information, may email him at email@example.com.
To donate to the fund, visit http://www.youcaring.com/240ProspectStreetFireRelief