When disasters strike like the fire at Bellefontes Hotel Do De early Sunday morning, local human service and disaster workers are thankful for the community safety net they have in place.
Local groups such as the American Red Cross, Bellefontes FaithCentre, Housing Transitions Inc. and others worked frantically Monday to organize their services and help the 27 people displaced by the fire, ages 4 to 83.
Agencies will hold two one-stop shop sessions this week for those victims, offering various services and referrals. The sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday and 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Trinity United Methodist Church, 128 W. Howard St., Bellefonte, on the first floor of the churchs education building.
We all work together to try to take care of these people, said Romayne Naylor, who works in emergency services for the local Red Cross. A lot of people are really stepping up. Its heartwarming.
On Monday, some victims were staying in local hotels, and others chose to stay with friends and family members. Everyone had a temporary place to stay.
The Red Cross and other organizations worked to look for more permanent options.
We are the bridge to the recovery agencies, Naylor said. We meet emergency needs, then we start working with the other agencies.
The FaithCentre also was in initial planning stages Monday after staff opened the West High Street nonprofit Sunday morning to serve as a Red Cross staging area and provide residents a change of clothes.
People from the community already have contacted the FaithCentre to see how they can help, Executive Director Nicole Summers said. The FaithCentres role right now is to collect donations and money and gift cards, and work with other members on this task force to provide support to people moving from temporary to more permanent housing.
Both the FaithCentre and 3WZ 95.3-FM are collecting donations.
People would need the sort of things you need when you get up in the morning, Summers
said. Toothpaste, shampoo ... things like that.
On 3WZs Facebook page, other sought items include new sheets and towels, and socks.
Summers said that, looking ahead, the former Do De residents will need gift cards to stores such as Walmart and cash donations to help them move into new housing locations. To that end, the groups will work with Housing Transitions, which helps residents who need a place to live.
No single agency does everything, so we have to partner frequently to make sure we can address different needs, Summers said.
Various veterans organizations also are helping out. Connie Stoner, a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles ladies auxiliary in Bellefonte, said the Eagles mens group has given cash donations to fire victims who were members and will decide at its Wednesday meeting how to help further.
The Bellefonte American Legion, Veterans Club and the Pine Grove Mills Veterans Club also are planning assistance.
A lot of things are going on for these people, Stoner said.
Other groups and businesses offering assistance include Plumbs Drug Store, 105 N. Allegheny St. in Bellefonte. The pharmacy is providing the victims their medications at just above cost and, Monday afternoon, had already helped at least two people. Area churches and restaurants also are providing assistance and meals.
People have just been fabulous, Naylor said. We are so fortunate in our community because we do have a network of organizations that work together regularly. Its an asset that we should be really proud of.
She said the former Do De residents shes spoken to are doing well under the circumstances.
This is a devastating loss for anybody, she said. This is home, and they lost it. Im confident that they will recover, but its going to take time for all of them.
Jessica VanderKolk can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter