How to best help Prospect Heights fire victims right now

The Prospect Heights community and others from across the area are rallying to help nearly 100 families left homeless by Wednesday’s massive apartment fire.

American Red Cross officials on Thursday said local churches are opening their doors for shelter, stores are donating food and neighbors are willing to do anything to help.

“If people want to help, the most effective thing they can do is make a financial donation to the American Red Cross, or they can volunteer their time,” Red Cross spokeswoman Holly Baker said. “They can do both of those things by simply going to Redcross.org or calling 1-800-Red-Cross.”

At this point, she said, financial donations are critical as the agency seeks shelter and food for the fire victims. The need for material items will come later, once those affected have gotten back on their feet in new homes.

“We’re so very grateful to the community for their support,” Baker said. “And we’re very grateful to the Lakewood Chapel in Arlington Heights for opening their doors to us and giving these folks a great shelter.”

Mayor Nick Helmer said area hotels and restaurants also have been donating food and toiletries.

“It’s beautiful to hear that all these people want to help,” he said.

Lakewood Pastor John Elleson said his phone has been ringing all day with offers to help and donations. The church and city hall are among several places accepting donations of toiletries and clothing.

New or gently used clothing will also be accepted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Monday and Tuesday at the River Trails Condominium Association, 811 Apple Drive.

Northwest Suburban High School District 214 spokeswoman Jennifer Delgado said the district’s education foundation has partnered with Wheeling High School to create a website to raise money for the 14 Wheeling High School students and their families displaced by the fire. That site is http://give.livingtree.com/c/help-whs-students-displaced-by-fire-.

And Wheeling Township Elementary District 21 is accepting donations for at least 26 students who attend Frost Elementary and Holmes Middle schools through its Katie Samsel Foundation. To donate, visit ccsd21.org/katiesamselfund.

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