Giving Back

Local Community Forms Effort to Help Victims of New Year's Eve Apartment Fire

What remains of 125 Summit Avenue which, until December 31, had been the home of 12 Summit families. Credits: City of Summit Fire Department

Where the eyes, the eyes with the will to see
Where the hearts, that run over with mercy
We take care of our own
We take care of our own

"We Take Care of Our Own" - Bruce Springsteen

SUMMIT, NJ - New Year's Eve is supposed to be time of reflection and celebration, looking back at the year that was and ahead to the subsequent twelve months -- the next stage of one's life -- with the to-be-written chapters often built along resolutions for self-improvement, full of the hope and promise of even better days to come.

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But, for 12 Summit families, the early-morning hours of December 31 brought tragedy, as a five-alarm fire tore through their home -- an apartment building at 125 Summit Avenue -- destroying large parts of the structure and displacing them on a day that saw brutally-frigid temperatures.

Fortunately, owing to the heroism and efforts of Summit's first responders -- the Fire and Police Departments and the Volunteer First Aid Squad -- along with those from neighboring communities, there was no loss of life, but the blaze took from the victims virtually everything they had and hold dear.

Certain elements of their lives -- photos, keepsakes, items attached to memories -- are priceless and, ultimately, irreplaceable. Everything else -- items like clothing, shoes, furniture, household necessities -- are also painful to lose but can at least, in theory, be replaced.

A glimmer of hope for those who lost so much exists, however, in Summit's own Other Fellow First Foundation, a small, but nimble, charitable organization that exists solely to do what its name directly implies -- to help their fellow man, especially those who have been dealt a cruel hand by fate.

The Foundation, based out of the Summit Diner, is doing what it always does, turn tragedy into triumph by organizing a donation drive to help those impacted by the fire. It is another extension of the Foundation's DNA, which has recently seen them help former Summit Auxiliary Police Lieutenant Billy MacAdam -- who was brutally attacked and beaten while performing a Good Samaritan act -- and assist Summit coach and athletics legend Leroy Horn, who faced serious health issues without the resources necessary to pay for them.

The victims of the fire represent a cross-section of Summit life:

The majority are 30-somethings, mainly female, who are working-class residents employed in Summit and surrounding communities. One is a couple who were recently married, while another has an eight-year-old child. One is elderly, who was at a medical facility and thankfully not at home during the incident. While several were rescued by first responders through their windows, others jumped to safety including one woman who put both of her cats in a satchel and tossed them out a window to a man who caught the bag, all the time not knowing its contents. The woman then lowered herself out a window after saving her pets.

The Summit Area YMCA, in partnership with the American Red Cross, served as a collection point for clothing and gift cards, and collected 125 bags of clothes and more than $25,000 in gift cards.

While the response has been emphatic and typical of the Summit community, the need is yet far greater, which is why the Other Fellow First Foundation has established a mechanism to make online donations that will directly benefit the families and individuals impacted.

To make a tax deductible donation to assist the victims, visit Those who prefer to write a tax deductible check, are asked to make their checks payable to The Other Fellow First Foundation, c/o Brett Haire, and mail them to: Brave Asset Management, Inc., 47 Summit Avenue, Summit, NJ 07901.

The Other Fellow First Foundation will distribute 100 percent of the monies raised to the affected families.

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