Two weeks after a gas explosion set ablaze a Silver Spring apartment complex, killing seven people, local social service groups continue to seek donations for survivors, many of whom are immigrants who lost nearly everything inside the units they rented.
Jewish congregations and organizations are among the faith groups that have been collecting supplies for the survivors of the Aug. 10 fire and their leaders have been advising their communities on how to donate and help.
Ilana Branda, the policy and neighborhood manager at the nonprofit Montgomery Housing Partnership who oversees the Long Branch community, said the need continues to be great even with $400,000 in donations in hand.
“We’re making sure residents leverage what we have to offer. Hopefully they don’t have to go out and buy (everything),” she said.
Cash, checks and online donations are being used to help impacted families with such costs as funeral and replacement of documents, and generally, to “help get those in the community back on their feet,” she said.
The Flower Branch Apartments were home to many immigrants.
CASA de Maryland is collecting first aid kits, deodorant, diapers and clothing for those who lost their homes at the Flower Branch Apartments. The Latino and immigration advocacy and assistance organization is working with the housing group.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington has been urging monetary donations to the MHP. ”Please take the opportunity to do a mitzvah and support our neighbors in need,” a JCRC Facebook post said.
Area rabbis have spoken from the bima and sent eblasts to congregants, advising them of the assistance needed by so many families.
“At Shirat HaNefesh in North Chevy Chase, we sent out an announcement on the Listserv about ways of responding, including links for making monetary donations and places to go to volunteer,” Rabbi Gilah Langner said in an email.
“On the past two Shabbatot at Ohr Kodesh, I have announced from the bima the address to which checks can be sent to assist the families now in need because of the fire and explosion. This past Shabbat I urged our community to respond generously through monetary contributions and by providing the items these families need,” Rabbi Lyle Fishman said in his email.
On Aug. 14, an interfaith vigil, with survivors of the blast attending, was held near the scene of the explosion. Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, director of social justice at the JCRC, was joined by an imam, Buddhist monks and Franciscan friars. They spoke about the need to help the community, Steinlauf said.
A day after the fire, four Orthodox religious leaders went to the Long Branch Community Center near the site of the fire to see how they could help, said Maharat Ruth Balinsky Friedman of Ohev Sholom — The National Synagogue, who went with the shul’s Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom, Rabbi Topolosky of Beth Joshua Congregation and Maharat Dasi Fruchter of Beth Sholom Congregation and Talmud Torah. They came away with a list of needed supplies that congregants began donating to CASA de Maryland.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents involving gas pipelines, is leading the investigation into the fire at Flower Branch Apartments. Its senior investigator said last week it will likely be a year before the board issues a full report on the exact cause of the explosion.
Supplies are being collected at CASA de Maryland’s welcome center, 734 University Blvd E., Silver Spring. Donations can be made online at mhpartners.org