In the aftermath of last Sunday’s frightening fires, I have been privileged to witness the very best of our community. Yes, we are nervous, we are on alert, we are angry and we are grieving. But Northampton is an amazing community. We are resilient, we are strong, we are connected and committed to our neighbors, our neighborhoods, and to this city we all love. Everywhere I have been this week, I have heard from people eager to help with any immediate needs. Yesterday I met with representatives of local aid agencies and community members to coordinate the overwhelming response coming from our community. If you would like to help, here is the information about how to contribute:
The Hampshire County United Way has set up an account called “The Northampton Neighbors Relief Fund” at the Northampton Cooperative Bank. A goal has been set to raise $20,000 to directly assist those of our neighbors who suffered direct losses as a result of the fires of 12/27. All donations will go directly to families who have lost homes, cars, or suffered damage to vehicles or other structures that night. Checks made out to the Northampton Neighbors Relief Fund may be dropped off at any Northampton Coop branch or mailed to any one of their branch offices.
Many people have offered donations of clothing or household goods, and we are asking people to hold off on those donations for the moment, or to direct them to the Red Cross or to the Northampton Survival Center where they can be put to immediate use. The families directly affected by the fires of 12/27 are still in the process of discerning what their needs are. In the coming days, any tangible needs of household goods will be posted on the website www.hampshirecountycares.org. This is a website begun by community volunteers in the aftermath of the Meadowbrook fires which has been called into service once more to assist and coordinate relief efforts. In the coming days, you can check www.hampshirecountycares.org to find out where to drop off necessary items or to make an online contribution to the Northampton Neighbors Relief Fund through a secure Paypal button.
Some people have inquired about supplementing the Arson Watch reward fund. The Northampton Rotary Club has agreed to adminster such a fund and coordinate the donations with the State’s initial $5,000 offering. Checks made out to the Northampton Arson Reward Fund may be sent to the Northampton Rotary Club Foundation, P. O. Box 505, Northampton, MA 01061.
Attending to Ongoing Community Needs
The American Red Cross is a first responder agency that has been stretched thin by a number of serious events in recent weeks. Another way to support our neighbors is through support of the American Red Cross, 125 State Street, Northampton. The Hampshire County United Way and the Northampton Survival Center are other local agencies which have responded to our neighbors in crisis and need our ongoing support.
I anticipate that a number of fundraisers will be scheduled in the coming weeks to help the Northampton Neighbors Relief Fund reach its goal. Already I am aware of a fundraising meal at the Great Wall restaurant in Florence and have received notice of school-based collections at the JFK Middle School and Jackson Street Elementary School, and I am certain more will be announced when schools and businesses resume normal schedules next week. I encourage you to check back regularly with the Hampshire County Cares website, which will post fundraisers as they become aware of them, and with the Facebook group that has been set up to support those of our neighbors directly affected. As the New Year dawns, I continue to be impressed with the strengths of our community, even in the face of the fear and intimidation that arson attacks are generally meant to evoke.
It is a privilege and an honor to be witness to the great power of community that is defining Northampton at the dawn of a new decade.
With great thanks for your care, and best wishes for a healthy 2010,
Facebook Group: Friends of Northampton Arson Victims – Discussion
Northampton Media: “Northampton Citizens Express Fear, Anger, and Insecurity in Wake of Fires” (12/30/09)
Northampton Media: “Mayor Higgins Sends Message to the Residents of Northampton” (12/28/09)
Fires Strike Downtown Neighborhoods; Two Die (12/27/09)