More than a week after a fire severely damaged 20-unit Building C of Little Lotts Creek Apartments, all 63 residents, including 40 children, remain displaced, but community donation efforts have helped, and some are finding new homes.
The fire the morning of March 29 in one three-story structure of the five-building complex off East Jones Avenue was extinguished in about an hour by Statesboro and Bulloch County firefighters. But flames had gone through the roof, and thousands of gallons of water used to fight the fire damaged apartments below those below those directly affected by flames and smoke.
“Right now everybody’s in the process of sifting through the ashes to see what can be salvaged and what cannot be and being allowed to take their items out of the building,” Little Lott’s Creek Apartments site manager Katherine Parks said Tuesday.
Building C’s central 12 units, in effect the homes of 12 families, need to be completely reconstructed, Parks said. A structural engineer is scheduled to visit Thursday morning, after which Parks hopes that the eight outer units, four on each end, can be ready for tenants to move back in soon.
The American Red Cross took care of some immediate needs of the displaced families in the first few days but does not provide long-term lodging.
“We’re working with every service agency in town trying to come up with resources for people,” Parks said. “Right now, a majority of our folks are staying out at the Stay Plus Extended-Stay hotel. … It’s a convenient location, and they have full kitchens. For our people that have children, it does save them a bunch of money instead of having to eat out every meal. ”
Little Lott’s Creek is not federally subsidized housing. Residents pay their own way, at rents of $625 for a two-bedroom apartment or $705 for a three-bedroom, plus utilities. Adults displaced by the fire are working people, mostly single mothers and a few young couples with children. The children range in age from 1 month to 18 years, Parks said.
Bulloch County VOAD, or Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters, which connects efforts among other local volunteer groups and agencies, launched an appeal Saturday with a goal of raising a little over $8,500. After VOAD negotiated a special rate with the Stay Plus management, this was enough to provide rooms to 15 families for two weeks.
That goal was met within 48 hours, VOAD community coordinator DeWayne Grice reported.
“As of today we have raised enough money to cover the hotel rooms for two weeks,” he said Tuesday. “Now, for some of these people, that’s going to be enough time. But some of them are going to need a little longer, so we’re continuing to collect some funds. Every bit of the funds we collect will go toward assisting these families either with hotel rooms or whatever their needs are.”
Bulloch VOAD, which does not have 501c3 tax-exempt donation status of its own, is working an organization that does, the Coastal Empire Disaster Recovery Committee, or CEDRC, to collect these donations.
Checks designated for the purpose can be mailed to CEDRC, P.O. Box 1133 Pooler, GA 31322, or a PayPal link for online donations can be found through a story about the effort at griceconnect.com.
Grice identified Pittman Park Church, Christian Social Ministries, First United Methodist Soup Kitchen, Edie’s Vaccination Pin Project, Fostering Bulloch Hope Chest and the Statesboro Food Bank as organizations that provided monetary, clothing or food assistance. McKeithen’s True Value Hardware donated gift cards for U-Haul truck rentals for families to move their belongings.
The United Way of Southeast Georgia and the Salvation Army are working on grants to help families that have to move to new apartments, Grice said.
While in temporary arrangements, the families – especially those from the 12 apartments that need extensive restoration – are looking for other permanent rental housing in a price range they can afford, Grice and Parks said. Little Lotts Creek Apartments refunded them their security deposits and any balance of rent, she said.
Kiwanis drop-off Friday
Meanwhile, Kiwanis Club of Statesboro is coordinating with Parks to provide a drop-off site for people who want to donate items to the displaced families. She asks that people not bring any items to the apartment complex.
The Ag Barn at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds has been announced as the drop-off location for Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Only clean, usable items will be accepted, Parks said. Items most needed include bed linens, diapers, towels, clothing for adults and children and toys, she said. Nonperishable food items, household items and toiletries such as deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and toothpaste will also be accepted.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by a state fire marshal and the Statesboro Fire Department, said SFD Chief Tim Grams.