LITTLE VILLAGE — Little Village families are rallying to raise money for funerals for eight children killed in a devastating fire early Sunday — and to help those displaced.
Nonprofit Enlace Chicago launched a GoFundMe campaign Sunday to help families cover the costs of funerals and burials. The fundraiser seeks to raise $100,000, and has raised $5,633 as of noon Monday.
“Enlace Chicago is taking donations for funeral costs upon the family’s request,” the GoFundMe said.
Another GoFundMe fundraiser created by the organizers of the La Villita Facebook page aims to raise money to help the Ayala, Contreras and Mendoza families cover funeral and hospital costs. The families are related to each other and were sleeping in the same building and lost eight children in the fire, according to the post. The fundraiser seeks to raise $20,000 and has raised $6,851 as of noon Monday.
A third GoFundMe fundraiser organized by Friends of Spry aims to raise money to cover the basic needs of the displaced Mercado, Vergara-Sotelo, Gutierrez and Barragán families who survived the fire, according to the campaign. The fundraiser seeks to raise $10,000 and has raised $360 as of noon Monday.
Enlace is also accepting drop-off donations and partnering to assist the community with home goods, food, clothes and other needed items.
Donations can be dropped off the Enlace offices at 2329 S. Troy St. or 2756 S. Harding Ave and at Latino Progresando, 3047 W. Cermak Road.
Donations can also be dropped off at Amor De Dios Church, 2356 S. Sawyer Ave. Pastor Ramiro Rodriguez of Amor de Dios United Methodist Church said they heard about the tragic fire from parishioners, who are relatives of families impacted by the fire.
Early Monday, Rodriguez said people had already dropped of clothes, toys and kitchen items. The church plans to continue accepting donations throughout the day.
The families need “clothes, food, everything. They lost everything in the fire and are starting over,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll keep accepting as the donations keep coming.”
Clothing is needed for women in sizes medium, large and extra-large; men in sizes large and extra-large; boys size 10-12 youth. Shoes are need for women in sizes 7, 7.5, 8.5; men size 10; boys size 4.
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said eight people died. On Monday afternoon, three were identified as Almaraz Amaya, 3 months; Victor Mendoza, 16; and Giovanni Monarrez, 10.
The others had not yet been formally named by the medical examiner’s office.
The tragedy unfolded overnight Sunday. Fire crews arrived at the fire in the 2200 block of South Sacramento at about 4 a.m. Sunday.
All of the eight killed in the fire were children, Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief Walter Schroeder said Monday morning. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said the victims were children and teenagers as old as 16 years old.
“One of the biggest things, I want this to never happen again and whatever we have to do on our end to make sure it does not happen again,” he said. “As we move forward, we need the community to come together and heal. That’s what we are focused on right now.”
Two other people — both children, according to Schroeder — were badly hurt in the fire and are hospitalized.
About 30 people were displaced across three buildings on the block because of the fire, Schroeder said.
It began in the rear of the building and spread to the front. No smoke detectors were found in the building, fire officials said.
The cause of the fire is not known yet, and the investigation is ongoing.
Memorial crosses were built at the site with the names: Alanni, Ariel, Cesar, Giovanni, Gialanni, Mya, Nathen, Victor and Xavier.
An Enlace spokesperson said Monday that the children who died in the fire had been at a pop-up BBQ co-hosted by Enlace and New Life Centers on Friday. The nonprofit’s staff is mourning the loss.
“There are several families impacted by this tragic event, including two mothers who lost children, and numerous families that have lost their homes or loved ones,” spokesperson Solange Piña-Lorca said.
Rocia Rivera, a 50-year-old mother of three who lives down the block, knew one of the families affected by the fire for many years.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “Personally, my heart is broken. I don’t have any words. I can’t imagine what the family is going through. … I can’t believe it … all the little angels are not here anymore.”
Rivera urged landlords and residents to make sure they had functioning fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. “They could have saved so many lives,” she said.
A functioning fire alarm “could have potentially” saved lives and changed the outcome of the devastating fire, Schroeder said.
Cardenas said he would meet with the community to discuss fire safety in an effort to “learn from this tragedy.”
“As we move forward, we need the community to come together and heal. That’s what we are focused on right now,” Cardenas said.
On Monday, fire officials canvassed the neighborhood, handing out fire alarms and offering information on fire safety to neighbors after the “heartwrenching” fire, said Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief Annette Nance Holt.
“When we lose one life, that’s too many lives. … Today it’s even more critical. We lost eight people in a fire and that’s unheard of in the city of Chicago,” Holt said. “I can’t even count back to when we lost this many lives (in a fire).”
Sonia Osorio, 40, who lives a few blocks away, stopped by the South Sacramento block Monday to pay her respects.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” Osorio said who stopped by the vigil Monday morning with her husband and three young children. “So many kids lost — how can you not feel pain? You just think, what if these were my kids?'”
Patricia Toro, who was in town visiting from Oregon for her son’s graduation, stopped by to pay her respects and donate money.
“We don’t know the family but we felt the hurt,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose so many families overnight.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement acknowledging the efforts to save the victims.
“Our thoughts go out to not only the families of those who perished but to members of the department who pushed as hard as possible to reverse the deadly fate of the eight who are now gone,” Emanuel said. “We all pray the two living victims will make a recovery despite the odds.”
Schroeder urged Little Village residents to make sure they have functioning smoke detectors. People can reach out to 311, the alderman’s office or the fire house.