MANCHESTER, NH – On Dec. 21 the unthinkable happened – an electrical fire ignited a 36-unit apartment building on Log Street, devouring it in flames and leaving more than 50 people displaced.
That’s a tough scenario to begin with, but so close to Christmas – especially where kids are involved – well, it was enough to get Peter Telge of Milly’s Tavern moving. He and his marketing manager, Todd Griffin, quickly organized a benefit concert, inviting more than a dozen local musician to put on an all-day show.
One week later, on Dec. 28, attendees brought toys, clothing, gift cards, cash and purchased raffle tickets to help raise money, bidding on items donated by local businesses.
Feeling overwhelmed in a good way, Griffin set out the following day to connect with the families who’d lost everything in the fire. But instead, he spent the day spinning his wheels and ended up feeling frustrated.
“I’m baffled,” said Griffin on Monday evening, after calling every city agency and office he could think of, along with the property management company and the Red Cross, to try and figure out how to deliver the donations to the families who were burned out of their apartments.
“The outpouring was amazing. We have so much stuff here. But I can’t find anyone who knows how to find the people from the apartments. I talked to the Red Cross, the mayor’s office, someone from the administration office of the fire department, I called Health and Human Services, the Welfare Department – everyone says the exact same thing: They have no idea where these people are,” said Griffin.
He said the Red Cross told him they would only accept cash donations due to the fact that the displaced families will be in transitional housing for several months. Griffin said he tried to at least get a list of the number of children and their ages, so he could make sure the appropriate items were set aside.
“These kids had their entire lives burned down to the ground a few days before Christmas. We even have wrapping paper available, in case parents wanted to wrap up gifts for their kids,” said Griffin.
He said more donations, including furniture, are expected this week.
“I guess I’m just surprised that there’s not some sort of city-run outreach that includes all the non-profits, some place you could call so you could figure out how to get donations to people in need,” Griffin said.
After posting something on his Facebook page Monday, Griffin found out about some families staying at a Manchester motel, and others pointed him to a GoFundMe page for some of the fire victims.
“Thank God for social media,” said Griffin, who was getting ready to follow up on some more leads Monday night.
“Yeah, it just so happened that a friend of mine is the guy who is standing by the door of the apartments, letting people in to get things, since only certain apartments are safe to go into. Between talking to him, and people on Facebook, that’s really the only real information I’ve been able to get,” Griffin said.
If you know someone who was a victim of the Dec. 21 Log Street fire contact Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.