Fire Blazes Through South Lawrence

An empty nightclub in Lawrence went up in flames early Monday morning, also burning down an entire block of buildings and leaving about 40 families homeless in a seven-alarm fire. No one was severely injured. Dhariana Gonzalez ’08, a student from Lawrence, witnessed the scene first-hand. “The whole block was down—on the left there were no houses; it was all flat,” she said. Gonzalez said she plans to help the victims in any way she can, many of whom were unsured. “They’re really just starting from the beginning again,” she said. While a task force investigates what is suspected as arson, agencies such as the Red Cross have been working to relieve victims. Students at Phillips Academy are also working to support the Red Cross and similar agencies in their relief efforts. According to Jamie Devlin, the Interim Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Merrimack Valley, there was “total devastation—14 buildings were destroyed to the foundation.” Scott Flanagan, Director of Food Services at Phillips Academy, saw the smoke from Route 125 while driving from Haverhill to Andover on Monday morning. His first concern was the safety of Uncommons employees, many of whom live in Lawrence. Flanagan said that he was relieved to find out that the fire did not directly affect any of them. Devlin is in the process of interviewing victims to determine the needs of displaced families. The cost of the Red Cross’s emergency help is estimated at $100,000. According to Kristen Oleson, Operations Manager for the American Red Cross of Merrimack Valley, the Red Cross operates 100 percent on public generosity. Oleson wrote a letter requesting local Red Cross volunteers to staff the shelter at the South Lawrence East Elementary on Crawford Street. Adrienne Marshall, Assistant Director of Community Service said, “Two of the homes destroyed in the fire were Habitat for Humanity Homes which other families were all set to move into.” Maurine Kelley, head of Community Service at the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, described the fire as “a sad, tragic moment for everyone in Lawrence.” Having grown up five blocks from the scene, Kelley said she was heartbroken to see a neighborhood so close to hers go up in flames. “I cried the day I saw it and the day after,” Kelley said. She said that the fire should not affect any of the Lawrence community service programs from Phillips Academy. At the Lawrence Boys and Girls Club, of hundreds of members only two, who lived in one of the condos in the neighborhood, were directly affected. Members of the Phillips Academy community are in the process of facilitating support efforts to assist in any way possible. Phillips Academy Red Cross is collaborating with the affinity group Alianza Latina to fundraise in Uncommons from Friday until next Wednesday. Donors will receive a free Red Cross Bracelet and “the gratitude of helping somebody in need,” said Alyssa Yamamoto ’08, president of PA Red Cross. “Every dollar will go to the local Red Cross chapter in Merrimack Valley which has been helping victims find shelter, clothing and food,” she continued. The groups will also be collecting donations at the Game Night on Friday. Cynthia Efinger, Director of Student Activities, added a note to the Weekender to encourage members of the school community to donate. According to Marshall, all items should be donated to the Lazarus House Ministries Thrift Store Locations. Lazarus House is one of the agencies to which the Red Cross refers victims in need of clothing. In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Flanagan emphasized, “A sweatshirt makes a big difference to someone who’s lost everything—a pair of socks, boots, anything.” The Community Service office already has clothing from fall term’s unclaimed lost and found items waiting for delivery, and Clara Gomez, a baker in Uncommons, will collect donations from the staff. Dishes and toiletries are also in high demand. In an email sent to students spearheading relief efforts, Marshall said that a toiletries collection box will be placed in the Dean of Students Office.