Community overwhelms Selbyville fire victims with support

Date Published: 
January 10, 2014

Is it better to give too much than too little? The local community seems to think so. After a Selbyville apartment building caught fire Friday, Jan. 3, displacing eight families, people sprang into action to continue the holiday spirit of giving into the new year.

The weekend after that frigid snowy day, social media was alive with calls to contribute to approximately 20 people displaced from their homes at 18 W. Church Street, across from Dollar General. By Monday, clothes and home goods flowed into local schools and businesses. By Tuesday morning, the grand collection was moved to Salem United Methodist Church.

“When awful things happen, wonderful things come from it. Just seeing the outpouring from this community — I was just overwhelmed,” said Salem’s Donna Mitchell. “It just looked like Santa’s workshop.”

Shoes, books, brand new toys, blankets and more stood ready for her to sort.

“I am in a room right now, and I am swamped. We want all the clothes to stop, because we are overwhelmed,” Mitchell said. “I must have over 150 bags.”

There were no injuries in the fire, but the Red Cross arrived to provide temporary housing. Most of the people who lived in the apartments lost everything, including one family’s cat.

One member of Salem United Methodist was affected, and four Phillip C. Showell Elementary students lost their home, which helps explain the huge collections of donations, as word spread to the families of other students and church members. (The other children attend G.W. Carver Academy and Project VILLAGE, in addition having little siblings at home.)

But some businesses got involved without even personally knowing the families, a true “outpouring of love,” in Mitchell’s words.

“We are waiting for the names of the families and a contact person to invite them to come up one at a time, to find what they want,” Mitchell said. “We have sizes from extra-large men’s right down to babies.”

They’ll still need plenty of personal items, though, so Salem will make lists of the families’ needs, aiming to purchase those through their Good Samaritan Fund, or to provide gift cards.

People still wishing to contribute are being asked to send Walmart or Food Lion gift cards.

Checks can also be sent to Salem United Methodist Church, with a memo saying they’re for the fire families, to P.O. Box 410; Selbyville, DE 19975. For more information, call (302) 436-8412.

Of course, the thing they’ll need the most in the future is a home, so Mitchell is encouraging anyone with housing or an apartment for rent to get in touch, too.

Snow piled around Ash Arm Apartments on Friday at 3:17 p.m., when the blaze was reported to then Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company. Fire companies from Roxana, Frankford and Bishopville, Md., also provided backup on that windy day.

“The complete second floor pretty much burned up,” said Selbyville Fire Chief Bob Eckman. “The first floor is still intact, [with] water and some smoke damages.”

The Office of the State Fire Marshal was investigating the blaze this week to determine the origin and cause.

The Selbyville Town Council also discussed the fire at their Jan. 6 meeting.

“Looks like it’s a total loss,” said Bob Dickerson, town administrator, adding that the owner was working with insurance companies.

The fire marshal’s office reported damage estimates of $150,000.

Mayor Clifton Murray said the building has been in town for a long time, and Dickerson said it had once been a chick hatchery.