Groups offer assistance to apartment fire victims

Published 7:12 pm Friday, March 7, 2014

After a fire destroyed a Clanton apartment building Tuesday, local organizations and companies jumped into action to help tenants who lost everything in the blaze.

Groups including the Chilton County Emergency Assistance Center, Grace Fellowship, Through the Grace of God Ministries and the American Red Cross are extending aid to the tenants of Building 6B at Rolling Oaks Apartments in the form of shelter, clothing, food, medication and furniture.

In addition, several of the tenants’ employers have launched efforts to help them find shelter and acquire basic necessities such as clothing and personal hygiene products.

Intake Clerk Jennifer Howard with the Emergency Assistance Center said the center could provide people with a voucher to stay at a local hotel for as many as three nights after they receive housing assistance from the American Red Cross.

“Red Cross helps them first on housing,” Howard said. “If they don’t have any place to stay [after that], we can give them up to three nights.”

Howard said the center could also provide tenants with clothing, food, prescription medication and eventually household items such as furniture and dishes.

To receive aid at the center, tenants must bring a fire report for verification purposes.

“All they need to do is bring a fire report in, and after they find a place to rent, we will be happy to help with household goods,” Howard said. “We’re here to help them.”

Howard said the center is accepting monetary and material donations from the community to help people displaced by the fire.

“The money helps paying for [hotel] rooms and prescriptions, and clothes are always needed,” she said. “Whatever we have left over, we sell in the thrift store to buy food for the food bank, so it does not go to waste. All help will be appreciated by us and the recipients.”

The center is open Monday–Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Donations may be brought to the center only during business hours.

All donors will receive a tax receipt for their contributions.

Monetary donations should be brought to the office inside the center.

Anyone donating items should bring them to the back of the center and ring the buzzer for assistance.

“We ask them please don’t bring it on the weekend and leave it out there because unfortunately it will be stolen,” Howard said.

The center also accepts non-perishable food items.

The Chilton County Emergency Assistance Center is located at 502 Enterprise Road in Clanton.

For more information, call (205) 755-9467.

“Chilton County is good about helping in times of a disaster,” Howard said. “All help will be appreciated. I know the people at the apartments will appreciate it, too.”

Leaders at Grace Fellowship have asked their congregation to donate clothing and other items to the center for the tenants.

“We have offered to help with any temporary housing needs that we may be able to provide,” Grace Fellowship Pastor Jake McCall said. “We have offered any counseling services that anyone may need, which would include help with planning or next steps to take after such a major loss.”

For more information, call Jacque Burkhalter at (334) 201-7662 or Jennifer Vinson at (205) 415-1547.

Bernie Office Solutions established a donation fund for James Michael Ray, one of its employees who lived in the apartment building that burned Tuesday.

The description on the webpage for Ray’s fund states, “James managed to escape the apartment safely but was only able to save a small amount of clothes. He is going to need a lot of help getting back on his feet.”

Donations can be made at

So far, $1,880 has been donated to Ray’s online fund.

“Anyone can log on and donate,” said Chris Kelley, Regional Service Manager for Bernie Office Solutions’ Birmingham and Huntsville offices. “We’re just doing everything we can do to take care of him.”

Ray also received financial assistance from his company to purchase toiletries immediately after the fire.

Johnson Controls Inc. is currently assisting four of its employees affected by the apartment fire, but officials declined to provide specifics.

Seven of eight units in the apartment building were occupied and nine tenants affected by Tuesday’s fire.