Community shows generosity to Ashwood fire victims
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 12:41

Despite a fire that destroyed their home, Alecia Newman and her family received donations from strangers in Dundalk, throughout the country and even around the world.
photo by Stephanie Bragg

Over $4,500, clothes and more collected

by Ben Boehl

    Alecia Newman and her family lost everything in a house fire.
    The Dec. 17 blaze destroyed their Ashwood Road home and most of the items inside. It looked like their Christmas was ruined, but then the family got help from the community.
    Within hours of the fire, two separate online collections were taken up for the family and the community responded.
    Newman said her family went from a Christmas filled with sorrow and despair to one of the best holidays she has experienced.
    Donors included the Ray Rice Foundation, which donated new toys Newman’s children. The teachers at her children’s school donated a television. A friend’s father gave the children an Xbox Kinect.
    There were monetary donations given from Newman’s mother’s car club. Three young men who call themselves “Hoodies for Homies” bought and personally wrapped presents for each child.
    Newman was also touched when an anonymous five-year-old emptied his/her piggybank into an envelope for a donation.    
    There were so many toys collected that Newman returned the favor and donated to five other families in need.
 “It was astounding to see how Dundalk pulled through to provide items to my family,” Newman noted.    
    “At present, the donated items have grew so large, we had to ask Sister Irene (Pryle) and Deacon Herman (Wilkins) of Our Lady of Hope if we could use their gym as a sorting site. It’s just mind-blowing.”
    Stephanie Bragg and Krista Bayne started a Facebook page called “Support for Alecia Newman and family!”
    The group asked for clothes, shoes and toys for the family.
    Bayne is a former roommate of Newman and saw the story about the fire on the news and posted it on her Facebook page.
    Bragg saw Bayne’s post about the fire and then started the event page that asked for donations.
    “Krista is among the best people I know and is willing to give the shirt off her back to make sure someone doesn’t go without. She’s the type of person who gives to every homeless man/women she sees,” Newman said.             “Stephanie was next. She saw Krista’s post and then she started a donation Facebook event with multiple drop-off locations, so people could give various items to our families.”
    Bragg said the original plan was to notify a few family and friends for help, but the message got out all over Dundalk, throughout the country and even around the world.
    The event page was shared 3,500 times and donations came from outside of Maryland and overseas.
    “Denmark was the farthest. I had donations mailed in from Michigan and California,” Bragg explained. “We have had monetary donations from near and far. It has been a wonderful Christmas to see everyone come together to help one of my best friends at this tough time.”
    For a few days after the fire, three homes in the Charlesmont area were used as drop-off stations for bag/box donations of clothes, toys, food, toiletries and many other items.
    “We had so much we had to stop the donations of goods because of lack of space. Monetary and gift card donations are still accepted to help the family after they are settled,” Bragg added.   
    Gabbie DiSalvo, a neighbor of the family, started her own monetary collection for them on the site within hours of the fire.
    DiSalvo’s parents were outside walking their dog when they spotted the fire. Her parents were the ones who called 911.    
    “When I first started, I was hoping I would get $1,000,” DiSalvo said.
    She was wrong. As of Saturday, the page had received over $4,500 for the family. 
    “It’s insane. I thought it was going to be hard getting donations before Christmas,” she noted. “I always hear how Dundalk is such a terrible place, but this shows how great the community really is.”
    DiSalvo and Newman never met before the fire, but that didn’t stop her from raising money for the family.
    Newman said that she has made a new friend and wants to return the favor by helping DiSalvo reach her career goals.
    “Gabbie is studying communications in college and her dream is to intern with the Ravens. I promised her I would do all that was in my power to help her achieve this goal,” Newman added.
    Another neighbor that Newman wants to thank is Shannon Davis, who she says helped make her family’s Christmas special.
    “She is a neighbor two doors down from me who struggles with two children of her own. She has been there for me and my family everyday helping sort through items and drop-off donations,” Newman said of Davis.
    “She took her time out from her family and children’s Christmas to make sure mine would be amazing.”