As part of our photojournalism program at Loyalist College, we get to help produce The Pioneer, which is completely done by the photojournalism students with the help of our teachers/staff. As this is our last semester, we are asked to take on a more active role in publishing The Pioneer and this week, I had the task to be the editor as well as contributing some of the articles and images.
The story below was published in this edition of The Pioneer. Check out the link below for the full edition.
Community comes together to help fire victims
By Daniel Geleyn
Community members from the small south Frontenac community of Verona demonstrated their compassion as they rallied together to help residents who lost everything in a tragic fire on Jan 7.
At about 10 p.m. on Jan 7, a fire broke out in the McMullen Manor apartment complex in Verona. The complex had 28 one-bedroom units and was home to about 30 residents. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life, thanks to smoke alarms in the building which alerted residents.
Three of the residents of the complex were also members of the Verona Free Methodist Church, less than 100 metres away.
“One of them texted me and said my house is on fire,” says Pastor Kathy Casement. “That’s all I got so I phoned 911 to confirm the extent and found out the whole building was indeed in flames.”
The pastor then started making calls to her members for help. Within minutes, members of the congregation had opened the church and informed the authorities that the victims could use their facilities. Kielo Carlson, a member of the congregation since 2011, said “There was no one here when I arrived but then the emergency people started directing the residents to the church, so they started coming in.”
The residents were offered warm and cold drinks and snacks but most of them were in a state of shock, many of them still wearing their pyjamas.
“I’ve been running a clothing store called Style Revival where I provide clothing for free in the basement of the church since 2012,” says Carlson. “So I took many of those residents to our store so they could at least get some clothes.”
By the early hours of the next morning, all the residents were able to either go with friends or family in nearby communities, or they were lodged in a Kingston hotel coordinated by the Kingston Frontenac Housing Corporation.
“We stayed until all the residents were safely placed and were able to close the church at about 2:30 in the morning,” says Casement.
The Verona Community Association stepped up the next morning and used the cooking facilities at the Free Methodist Church to provide meals for the emergency people working at the scene all day Friday and Saturday. “The food was all donated by local stores and restaurants,” says Casement.
The news of the fire spread quickly and donations to help the people who lost everything in the fire started coming in.
“We started getting donations from people as far away as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa,” says Carlson.
They received so much that they had to divert the donated items to other neighbouring communities which also became overwhelmed with all the items being donated. More than a week later, they still have large bags of unopened donations filling the basement of the church.
Susanne Casement, a long-time resident of Verona who found out about the fire the next morning was inspired by the outpouring of support from her community. “Thank goodness that the church and the community association were there,” she says. “It makes me feel very happy to be part of such a caring community.”