Thursday, August 03, 2000

Fund to help homeless

Some lost everything in apartment building fire

By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

        GREEN TOWNSHIP — Lynn Lynes and Margaret Hastie celebrate the small victories.

        They rejoice in simple things such as an irreplaceable photo album untouched by water or smoke, and a child's painting that survives.

        Almost a month after they lost nearly everything when their apartment building went up in flames, Ms. Hastie, Ms. Lynes and 10 other families are piecing their lives back together.

        “I walk around empty all day long, but I just try to stay positive for my son,” said Ms. Hastie, a single mother whose son, Tommy Pace, is 4. “He doesn't understand why we're not going home. There's no consistency in mine and my little boy's life anymore. Right now, we're sleeping on a couch at my sister's.”

        Ms. Hastie, an operations assistant at Mutual Manufacturing, hopes to return to the Tollbridge Manor Apartments when the place is rebuilt in December.

        The July 1 fire caused $420,000 in damage to the 12-unit building and left 24 people homeless. Officials suspect fireworks landed on the roof, igniting the shingles.

        Arlene Falck also knows what it's like to lose everything. Her belongings, too, were destroyed in the fire. She is living in a hotel, waiting for the apartment building to be rebuilt.

        But unlike Ms. Lynes or Ms. Hastie, Ms. Falck had renter's insurance.

        “I'm just devastated for them. It's enough for me to be displaced,” she said.

        So, to help those who weren't insured, she has set up a relief fund at Cheviot Building and Loan. The bank

        will accept the donations and distribute the money equally to the families who weren't covered. There are at least three.

        “I'm not doing it for any reason but to help these people,” she said. “I think you give them a sense of security that people are going to be with you, you're not out there by yourself.”

        That help can be as soothing as a vibrant memory.

        The day after the fire, Ms. Lynes was looking for mementos of her daughter, Stephanie, who died of cancer in 1989 at age 4. She found the framed painting Stephanie created a week before her death and the album that contained photos of Stephanie. Both were undamaged.

        “Discovering those two things just kind of gave me the strength to deal with all the rest of this,” said Ms. Lynes, a department manager at Dillard's and the single parent of another daughter, Sara Lynes, 17. “I was able to find enough to feel like I would be all right. We tried to look for the positive things.”

        Ms. Falck's efforts are among them.

        “It's commendable, what she's doing for (us),” Ms. Hastie said. “I just wish someday I could repay that back to her somehow. The people that did have insurance, they suffered just as much as I did. That's what I think is wonderful about her going out of her way.”

        Donations can be sent to the Relief Fund for Fire Victims of Bridgetown, Cheviot Building and Loan, 6060 Bridgetown Road, Cincinnati 45248.


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