Tenants of the Holts Summit apartment building destroyed by fire Monday have begun finding new homes with the aid of Red Cross caseworkers.
Around 30 people lost most, if not all, of their belongings in the early morning blaze that engulfed the Evergreen Condos, and they have been staying in a temporary shelter at Union Hill Baptist Church or at the homes of friends and family.
The shelter is down to fewer than 20 people displaced by the fire, said Mike Quigly, who is part of the Red Cross team working in Holts Summit. The current goal, he added, is to help all victims find a permanent home by Friday.
The Red Cross has upgraded its effort on the tragedy to a regional response, with workers coming from Springfield, Columbia, Kirksville and Brookfield. Quigly said the recovery from the fire will likely be a months-long process.
The Red Cross asks people to stop bringing donations of clothing or hygienic items to the Union Hill shelter, with the immediate needs of those displaced already met. Monetary donations, made at redcross.org or by calling 1-800-red-cross, are currently the most helpful, Quigly added.
"It's been really an overwhelming response, both with corporate donors and just individuals," he said. "I had a little girl who was 12 years old, and she came to bring school supplies. I mean, it's just been that kind of response. It's been really amazing."
What families will need in the coming weeks as they settle into a new residence is larger home items, like microwaves, TVs or beds.
"That's when that kind of second wave needs to happen," Quigly said. "These people are going to need kitchen appliances, they're going to need furniture, they're going to need the things that it takes to build a household."
Anyone interested in donating home items can contact the Jefferson City Red Cross chapter office at 573-635-1132, as well as any organizations or individuals interested in providing assistance. The Red Cross, which cannot logistically accept larger home items, is working to find area partners able to handle those donations.
Other organizations around Mid-Missouri, such as the Holts Summit Soup Kitchen or Harvest Time Ministries, are already helping people displaced by the apartment fire.
Harvest Time, which accepts donations of clothing or hygienic supplies for those in need, said its donations have greatly increased since the fire. Mary McKibben, who helps run the shop, said they've filled their location on Chet Jac Drive in Holts Summit.
Victims of the fire, as well as anyone in need, can come and take as much clothing, shoes or toiletries as needed, McKibben said. It's all free.
The Jefferson City Public School District has also worked to ensure the approximately 20 students affected by the fire are OK.
Ryan Burns, director of communications with JCPS, said Tuesday was the first day any student who was ready could come back to school.
"It sounds, from all accounts, that they've been in relatively good spirits," Burns said.
The school district has coordinated with its transportation company so the students, staying at the shelter or elsewhere, can find rides to school. School supplies have also been provided to students in need.
Burns said groups from the school district have brought the children staying in the shelter games or activities to help keep them occupied. Staff from Callaway Hills Elementary School, where many of the students affected go, also checked in with the children in the aftermath of the fire, she added.