Gananoque’s Got Heart – Helping the Victims of the Bell Tower Mall Fire

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by Lorraine Payette, written April 30, 2014

“You’ve gotta have heart
Miles and miles and miles of heart…”
– You’ve Gotta Have Heart

(Gananoque, ON) The victims of the tragic Bell Tower Mall fire are learning just how amazing the townspeople of Gananoque really are.

On April 17 a fire broke out in the complex, killing one person and leaving 11 others homeless. Although a person has been charged in the incident, that’s a far cry from solving the problem for those who now find themselves with nothing.

“We’re accepting useful donations for the fire victims,” said Tara Berry of Overstocks at 122 King Street East in the town. “We’ve opened up a bank account for them. There are six families with no place at all to go. They need everything.”

These people escaped with the clothes on their backs and nothing else. Although the Mayor and Town Council were willing to put them up at the Best Western until Friday, April 25, the Mayor also told they would have to leave that morning whether they had found accommodations or not. Fortunately, the owner of the hotel couldn’t bear to see these people put out into the street, so he extended their stay until April 29.

The victims range in age from about 2 years to senior adults, and they have literally lost everything. Many were struggling financially before the fire as the end of winter dragged on and the summer job season slowly started up again. This tragedy has left them scrambling to find the money for first and last month’s rent, let alone enough for the absolute necessities of life.

Everything is needed – children’s clothing and shoes for ages 2 years through about 5-6 years, adult clothing for both men and women. Toiletries, laundry products, dishes, furniture, toys for the children, non-perishable food items – the list is endless. They especially need affordable housing.

“Everything is needed – hygiene supplies, personal accessories, furniture – everything,” said Berry. “We’ve had an amazing outpour from the community – it’s because Gananoque has heart and we’re a truly caring community.”

In addition to the donations of goods, a bank account has been started to give financial aid to the victims. Wendy Davis of Victims’ Services has joined with Berry to get it up and running, and donations can be made at the Bank of Montreal on King Street East in the name of “Wendy Davis in Trust of the Bell Tower Mall.”

“All kinds of people are reaching out to help,” said Berry. “Cliff Edwards, the entertainer, was in to drop off some wonderful men’s clothing, and Jayne Curtis of the Curling Club has offered us the use of the building to hold a benefit dance. Even local business owners are coming in and helping out. It’s just amazing.”

But being Jayne Curtis, she isn’t just donating the hall. She’s also bringing in supplies and assisting with everything to do with the dance from organization through food and refreshments to helping get the entertainment for the evening. Nothing is too much.

“These people lost everything,” said Curtis. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Gananoque just keeps reaching out. People keep coming in, doing what they can. One family has found an apartment, two others are close. If anyone has a place they’d be willing to let the victims rent at a reasonable cost, Berry would love to get the word and pass it along.

To donate items, contact Tara Berry at Overstocks, or bring items to the store at 122 King Street East in Gananoque during normal store hours. Money may be brought to the store or to the Bank of Montreal. Be sure to mention that it is for the Bell Tower Mall fire victims and it will get to the right place.

“One hundred per cent of all donations of any kind are going to the victims,” said Berry. “Any leftover food items will be donated directly to the food bank, and other leftover items will go to the appropriate charities. It means so much to all of us that Gananoque is willing to help these people out the way they are.”

The Community Fundraising Dance will be held at the Gananoque Curling Club on Friday, June 6 from 8:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. A silent auction and disc jockey will be part of the evening, and all proceeds go to help the fire victims. Admission is $5 per person, and you must be 19 or older to attend. Tickets are available at Overstocks, the Gan Shoe Outlet and Cindy’s Barber Shop.

For more information on how you can help, please contact Tara Berry at 613-888-7433. For more about the dance, call Jayne Curtis at 613-382-3281 or Cindy Matthews at 613-382-2686.

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