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Chester County Press

Financial support still needed for fire victims in Oxford

02/14/2024 01:32PM ● By Betsy Brewer Brantner

Aaron Karpas, the executive director of Neighborhood Services Center (NSC), said that financial support is still needed for the 29 families who lost their homes in the large fire that hit buildings on S. Third Street in Oxford last Sept. 13.

“All of the victims have found homes, except one single person who is in a unique situation,” Karpas said.

The NSC executive director couldn’t say enough about the outpouring of support from numerous agencies in Oxford Borough and the surrounding area.

“It was really a collaborative effort,” he said. “We received so much help from the community.”

As a result of that help, 29 families, over 100 people, received between $2,500 and $5,000 in direct payments. Those same families also received between $1,600 and $2,400 in gift cards.

NSC Board Chair Linda Staffieri said, “Just imagine losing everything and having to start over.”

Finding rental properties in the current market proved costly and difficult as well, the NSC officials said.

“They couldn’t find rental properties at the same cost that they were paying,” Karpas explained, adding that the rent and security deposits consumed a large portion of the donations. Rents the residents are now paying are considerably higher than what they were paying, and in some cases, the leases were less than a year.

All families impacted by the fire were invited to receive a Thanksgiving and Christmas meal box. Families with children were invited to participate in the Christmas Room. They could also choose new clothing from the clothing room at NSC.

Case Managers were assigned to support the group and inform them about benefits they might be entitled to.

Karpas emphasized, “The number of people needing help through our food pantry has increased by over 25 percent last year. That included not only the fire victims, but other people in the community that became aware of NSC.”

The NSC also hosted the Small Business Administration (SBA) in their building to assist businesses affected by the fire. The SBA provided information on small business loans and dispersed disaster relief funds. 

“NSC was one piece of the community effort,” Karpas said. “I can’t tell you much we appreciate all the donations and support we received for these families.”

Donations are still coming in—and going out quickly. Food pantry items such as shelf-stable food and toiletries are always needed at NSC. 

“We are always excited to get healthy food,” Karpas said.

It took a lot of volunteers to sort donations, deliver supplies, and transport the fire victims. They were anxious to get to their jobs and many required transportation and clothing. Volunteers were a vital part of the undertaking and are always needed.

Going forward, Karpas said, gift cards are always appreciated and the Clothing Room can always use new clothing.

“We always need seasonal items. Some people take advantage of the sales and bring us new items so we can stock up for future needs,” he said.

Karpas explained that NSC will continue to provide the support that the fire victims need, which can mean at least another 6 to 9 months of assistance if it is necessary. NSC also must meet the needs of others in the community who need assistance.

“Anyone can have a crisis in their life,” Karpas said. “It can be a fire, health problem, or loss of employment. We are here to help everyone that needs help. We are here for practical help: food, supplies, resources, connections, referrals, translations, life skills, direction, and guidance.”

NSC relies on the support of the community to continue its work, and the organization’s leaders are thankful for all the support NSC received, not just after the fire, but every day.

For more information, or to make a donation, call 610-932-8557 or visit the website at