PORTLAND, Maine — Less than a week after a fire raged through Munjoy Hill, affecting more than 40 people, Portlanders raised thousands to help the victims get back on their feet.
Organizers are meeting Monday night to plan how to deliver more than $10,000 to the immigrants and longtime Munjoy Hill residents affected by the Jan. 2 blaze on Merrill Street and Cumberland Avenue, according to Jay Norris, president of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization.
“It’s such a blessing,” said Norris, who was stunned by how quickly organizers were able to raise $8,200 through crowdfunding. Many donations were made by past Portland residents who live across the country and caught wind of the plea.
On top of that, 100 people gave $2,749 in cash Sunday afternoon at East End bistro Blue Spoon, which hosted a community fundraiser.
Investigators determined that the fire was accidental and caused by a faulty electric stove. Thirteen people were displaced, according to the city, and the American Red Cross said it provided assistance to more than 40 people in total.
Without knowing the victims, people such as Katie Wallace and Claire Jeffers immediately pitched in. Wallace, the bar manager at Blue Spoon and founder of The Locker Project, came up with the idea of a “Let’s Help Our Neighbors” fundraiser. Jeffers, a public relations professional who lives near the fire, set up the Gofundme page.
“The people of Munjoy Hill are some of the best people around. They take care of each other,” said Wallace, who said she personally delivered $500 in cash to several families, some who have children attending the East End Community School and are living in hotels. “They wept in my arms. They were so happy and grateful. They had no idea the neighborhood was doing this. It sends a message of hope and love.”
Businesses such as Bunker Brewing Company and Crush Distributors also gave to the cause. At the Blue Spoon fundraiser, a $20 donation to the families included a glass of beer or wine. American Roots, a clothing manufacturer across town, sent fleece to the victims.
Food and clothing donations came in all week, but the newly raised cash will help them get back on their feet.
“It’s encouraging to see the community come together,” said Jeffers. “It’s part of the reason why I love living up here.”
And as pockets of the city, such as this thickly settled East End enclave with water views, begin to gentrify, “these long-term residents are responding even more fiercely to things like this,” said Norris. “Every penny, every single penny, is going to these families.”