Outpouring of donations helps families displaced by Prospect Heights fire

 
 
Updated 7/21/2018 4:06 PM
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  • Overwhelmed by the generosity of others, Leslie Gonzalez, 15, middle, is overcome with emotion at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights Saturday as friends James and Juanita Golden with their two children, Kayleen, 13, and Nicole, 15, console her. She and her family, father Lenin, mother Alma and sister Princess, 18, lost everything in Wednesday's fire at the River Trails condominium complex.

      Overwhelmed by the generosity of others, Leslie Gonzalez, 15, middle, is overcome with emotion at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights Saturday as friends James and Juanita Golden with their two children, Kayleen, 13, and Nicole, 15, console her. She and her family, father Lenin, mother Alma and sister Princess, 18, lost everything in Wednesday's fire at the River Trails condominium complex. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteers at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights sort donated clothing Saturday morning for families displaced by the River Trails condominium complex fire.

    Volunteers at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights sort donated clothing Saturday morning for families displaced by the River Trails condominium complex fire. courtesy of Doug Picirillo

  • Leslie Gonzalez, 15, right, with the help of her best friends Kayleen, 13, and Nicole Golden, 15, picks out donated clothes Saturday for herself and her sister Princess at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Leslie's family is among 95 families displaced by Wednesday's fire in Prospect Heights.

      Leslie Gonzalez, 15, right, with the help of her best friends Kayleen, 13, and Nicole Golden, 15, picks out donated clothes Saturday for herself and her sister Princess at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Leslie's family is among 95 families displaced by Wednesday's fire in Prospect Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Barbara Sagan, middle, with her sister-in-law Maggie Sagan, left, sorts through donated clothes at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Barbara lived on the first floor of the River Trails condominium complex and lost everything in Wednesday's fire.

      Barbara Sagan, middle, with her sister-in-law Maggie Sagan, left, sorts through donated clothes at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Barbara lived on the first floor of the River Trails condominium complex and lost everything in Wednesday's fire. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Juan Jovan of Prospect Heights sorts through donated clothes at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Juan lost everything except for his identification papers and wallet in Wednesday's apartment complex fire in Prospect Heights.

      Juan Jovan of Prospect Heights sorts through donated clothes at The Bridge Community Church in Prospect Heights. Juan lost everything except for his identification papers and wallet in Wednesday's apartment complex fire in Prospect Heights. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Several grateful Prospect Heights residents displaced by a condominium complex fire Wednesday sifted through boxes of donated clothing and groceries Saturday at a local church to meet their urgent needs.

Donations have been pouring in at The Bridge Community Church in town from community members and businesses eager to help the 95 families of the River Trails condominium complex facing long-term displacement because of Wednesday's fire.

Several of those families have taken shelter at Lakewood Chapel in Arlington Heights or are staying with friends.

"It's been cool to see a lot of the people in our community come together, call us and want to help," said Junior Ziegler, teaching pastor at Bridge Community Church. "A lot of walls that people build up around churches and organizations (have) come down. ... It's really encouraging and a lot of fun to be a part of."

None of the affected families belong to the 1,500-member church, though four families have participated in after-school programs offered by the church in their neighborhood, Ziegler said.

A bus loaned by a church member helped shuttle families to and from the River Trails complex so they could pick up necessary supplies. Local grocery stores and restaurants donated about 100 boxes of food laid out on tables in the church's lobby, while the basement held several hundred large boxes of clothing. Officials also handed out gift cards.

Ziegler said his church is not coordinating relief efforts with Lakewood as both churches have been overwhelmed with an outpouring of community support.

"We'll partner any way we can, but let's just try to help these families as quick as possible," Ziegler said.

Church officials planned to stay open late Saturday until all affected families had come through, but the church may open its doors again Sunday if the need remains, he said.

"We're still accepting donations," he said. "We're pretty choosy about it just because of the amount of room that we have."

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