Wherever there are disasters, Tzu Chi is at the ready to help. On February 14th, a fire in Fort Lee, New Jersey, burnt down a five-story apartment building, leaving 43 families without homes. Tzu Chi volunteers from Bergen County organized a disaster relief effort right away, delivering cash cards, eco-blankets, and greeting cards from Master Cheng Yen.
It was the evening of Valentine’s Day when the ruthless fire swallowed the entire apartment building, leaving families there helpless.
On February 16th, Tzu Chi Mid-Atlantic volunteers got in touch with the American Red Cross and Catherine Umrichin, manager of the OEM, to confirm the list of victims as well as the location for the disaster relief site. On February 23rd, Tzu Chi handed out emergency financial aid in the form of cash cards and Da AI eco-blankets to those out in the cold.
Besides having volunteers from Bergen County, volunteers from neighboring Morris County also came to assist. Altogether, 25 volunteers worked together to give care and love to every person affected by the apartment fire. Even though neighboring Holiday Inn provided free rooms for victims up to March 5th. The Mayor of Fort Lee, Mark Sokolich, too, called upon help from local businesses. He also commended the compassionate efforts of the Tzu Chi volunteers.
Fort Lee, too, has become a melting pot of many cultures. Though many neighbors didn’t know each other before, the fire connected so many different things families in the building. Hee An Kim, a Korean-American, told the volunteer that when the fire started, he carried out his old neighbor who was living alone. An elder Greek resident, who had just renovated his apartment a few months ago, also thanked Tzu Chi volunteers.
A single mother who immigrated from China said that she lost her life savings to the fire. Having worked at a nail salon, she will have to start from scratch. Thinking about the unfortunate event, she couldn’t hold back her tears. An 82-year old man who was just discharged from the hospital said he also volunteered when he was young, and gave Tzu Chi his special thanks.
Tzu Chi volunteers did their best to offer their compassion and support to those impacted by this devastating event. By treating people from all walks of life with kindness, Tzu Chi hopes to bring people together through tragedy in hopes of a better future.