Giving Back

Westfield Family Homeless After March 1 Fire

The Mutyanda children--Munashe, Isaiah and Imani. Because their mom is currently unemployed, the family has been unable to find a landlord willing to rent to them. In addition to a place to live, the family needs clothing and everyday items.
Since March 1, Kenya Mutyanda has spent every available moment contacting friends and agencies, wading through the “no” answers from the agencies until she gets to a “yes.”

WESTFIELD, NJ — Kenya Mutyanda was in the kitchen making dinner on March 1 when she heard her panicked 14-year-old son, Munashe, scream “Mom!” from the room where he had gone to check on his two-year-old brother, Isaiah.

The three had just returned to the house they rented on Liberty Avenue from Munashe’s first track practice at Westfield High School. They had noticed a burning electrical odor when they first came home but, after checking all of the outlets, Mutyanda thought the house was fine. Now she ran into a room that was filling with smoke.

“Munashe was on his knees and he had brother in his hands and he was like, ‘here.’”  Mutyanda took the baby out of the room, then tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. When it didn’t work, she took the children out of the house and called 911.

Sign Up for E-News

Mutyanda realized that if the fire reached the home’s propane tank, the explosion could be huge. She put the boys in the car, then remembered that the keys were still on the couch. She held her breath, closed her eyes ran and back into the house, which was now filled with thick, white smoke, to retrieve the keys from where she’d left them on the couch.

When she’d made it out, Mutyanda drove the car around the corner and waited for firefighters to arrive. When they did, she took this video:

Hours later, the flames were extinguished and the house declared “unlivable.” The Red Cross gave her an emergency debit card that would provide them with funds for three days in a hotel, food and some clothes. (All they had were the pajamas they were wearing.)

Mutyanda still wonders how it might have been worse. “I imagine if he didn’t go and check on his brother, Isaiah’s little lungs would have filled with smoke,” she said. The family was up later than usual that night, as well. “If it was Thursday, we would have been in bed,” she said. For some reason, the smoke alarms had remained silent.

“The last week has been an emotional roller coaster,” Mutyanda told TAP at the hotel where she, Munashe, Isaiah and her 19-year-old daughter Imani (who is home on break from college) are staying until Tuesday, March 12, thanks to an individual who heard their story and was able to help.

Mutyanda, who was raised in Cranford and has lived in Westfield with her family for more than 10 years, doesn’t know where they will go Tuesday night.

Because they were renting, the family’s biggest obstacle now is finding someone willing to rent to a woman on unemployment. Mutyanda, who has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Kean University, was laid off from her job as Unit Director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Union County in July.

Social Services told Mutyanda they couldn’t help her because she was collecting unemployment benefits.

“If you live life the way you’re supposed to, they can’t help you,” she said.

Mutyanda, who has volunteered at shelters with her daughter in the past, is afraid to bring her children to one. “My experience is it’s not something that I want them to be around,” she explained. “That’s just something I can’t see myself doing unless I’ve exhausted every option.”

Meanwhile, she said, “I’m trying to keep some normalcy in the boys’ lives.” Munashe, a ninth-grader, attends a Union County Vocational-Technical School where he is learning about engineering. He plays sports at Westfield High School.

Since March 1, Mutyanda has spent every available moment contacting friends and agencies, wading through the “no” answers from the agencies until she gets to a “yes.”  The stress is getting to her.

“I’m having trouble keeping track and recalling things,” said Mutyanda. “I’m like, ‘Come on, Kenya. Get yourself together.’”

As a mother, she knows she has to keep going. “I need to get their lives back in order. I need to be a good example for my kids and show them that though times can happen and you’ve got to keep your head together,” she said.

In addition to a place to live, the family needs clothing and everyday items. “The only things we were able to save were items in the storage shed and the basement,” said Mutyanda. She’s thankful that the basement was where she kept the family’s memory boxes, photos and treasures like their homemade Christmas ornaments. Their fireproof safe also kept their important documents intact.

Otherwise, she said, “From pots to socks, everything is gone.”

When Mutyanda asked Evangel Church in Scotch Plains for help, the congregation gave her groceries and gift cards, as well as a sense that someone cared.

The Westfield High School Marching Band has given the family some clothes and gift cards, as have parents from Girl Scout Troop 824. Imani had been active in both before graduating WHS last year.

The family needs the following clothes:

For Isaiah, size 2T boys’ clothes, size 8 shoes and size 5 diapers. For Munashe, size 16 pants, size 9 shoes and jr XL/mens’ small tops. For Imani, size 2 pants, size 7 shoes and small tops. Kenya needs business attire appropriate for job interviews in size 12, size 8 shoes and large tops.

All of them need basics. “We could really use socks,” said Mutyanda. Isaiah loves Thomas the Tank Engine, she told TAP.

Family friend Alena Minatee is collecting items for the family. To donate, call her at 908-917-4030.*

*Editor's note, 3/12/13--Due to an overwhelming response from our readers, Minatee has set up this email address where you can contact her about helping the Mutyanda family:

Allstate Agent Ron Bansky has offered his office at 519 South Avenue in Westfield as a drop spot for Westfield-area residents to bring smaller items such as clothing, toys and gift cards. Click here to see his website and hours of operation.

The family has found a safe place to stay unitl Saturday, March 16. TAP will continue to follow this story.

For additional up-to-the-minute information about this story and to share ideas about how to help the Mutyanda family, "like" The Alternative Press of Westfield on Facebook.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Hartz Mountain Presents to Cranford Planning Board

July 19, 2018

CRANFORD, NJ – After months of waiting, Hartz Mountain continued its application for 750 Walnut at Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting.

James Rhatican, vice president of land use and development at Hartz Mountain, along two witnesses – real estate broker Matt McDonough and architect Bruce Englebaugh – spoke on Hartz Mountain’s behalf.

Rhatican referred ...

More Traffic, No Solution – Letter to Governor Phil Murphy

July 17, 2018

Dear Governor Phil Murphy,

From the mid-1970s, when I was age 12, I’ve had this vivid memory of watching my parents participate in a peaceful demonstration against the construction of a 12-story hotel complex just behind our backyard. In fact, on Wednesday, September 29, 1976, the local newspaper ran an article with a photo showing my mother and her protest placard. The memory of that ...

Upcoming Events


Thu, July 19, 7:30 PM

Mindowaskin Park, Westfield

Free Swing Band Concert in Mindowaskin Park

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, July 21, 9:00 AM

Westfield Community Center , Westfield

Rummage Sale

Westfield Police Blotter: Multiple Businesses Report Thefts & More

July 18, 2018

July 11,2018 3:50 p.m.

A business located on the 100 block of Central Avenue reports being the victim of a theft. Unknown actor came into the business and removed $2,200.00 worth of property.

July 12, 2018 2:40 a.m.

Danny Burke, age 32, of Edison, NJ was arrested for driving while intoxicated pursuant a motor vehicle stop. Subject was arrested, processed and released to a ...

Westfield Resident Named to JBWS Board of Directors

July 19, 2018

Cheryl Green Rosario of Westfield, vice-president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, bas been named to the JBWS Board of Directors.

JBWS provides safety, support and solutions for abuse. Founded in 1976 as the Jersey Battered Women’s Service, the Morris County-based agency has grown to provide a 24-hour helpline (1-877-R-U-ABUSED), emergency ...


AtlantiCast: Episode 18

On this week’s AtlantiCast, you’ll find out how accessing care at Atlantic Health System is now easier, more affordable and closer to home than ever, learn which item from the produce aisle could be the newest weapon against cancer, see what Atlantic Health System, the New York Times and Instagram all have in common and much more.



Picking up the Pieces – The Benefits of Account Consolidation

Over a lifetime of investing we often have numerous accounts located at different financial firms.  Rarely are these accounts managed with a grand plan that takes into account all the individual pieces.   Account proliferation can be detrimental to your investment performance, increase your risk profile, and lighten your pocketbook.  

Account consolidation offers the ...

Big Changes in Store for New Jersey’s Employers and Employees

Big changes are in store for New Jersey’s workplaces, with dramatic legislation aimed at improving conditions for New Jersey’s workers. These changes include the enactment of New Jersey’s Equal Pay Act, a new law to help the unemployed, and passage of New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Act. Most likely one or all these laws will impact you or someone in your family.

New ...

Understand NJ's Shared Responsibility Act

Last year, the President signed legislation that repealed the “penalty tax” for not having health insurance for tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.


On May 31, Governor Murphy signed into law the “New Jersey Health Insurance Market Preservation Act,” which establishes a “shared responsibility tax” for state residents without ...

5 Simple Ways to Save Water this Summer

According to the L.A. Times, the average American uses an estimated 98 gallons of water EACH day.  

Here are five simple ways you can save water, to help you conserve water this summer and take some pressure off of your drains.

1. Unless you are using it, turn the faucet off. How many of us still leave the water running while we shave or brush our teeth?According to ...

26 Homes Sold July 8-15 in Westfield and Surrounding Towns

There were 26 homes sold between July 8 and July 15 in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Cranford and Mountainside`

TOWN          ADDRESS    STYLE            RMS   BRS BTH   GAR   Sale Price

Cranford  115  Bryant Ave ...

Dog Found in Garwood

UPDATE: Reunited with owner.

ORIGINAL POST: Dog found on Pine Avenue in Garwood. He was given food and water. Garwood police now has him. Sweet and friendly. Contact the Garwood Police Department.

It's Not What You Are Eating, It's What's Eating You


Emotional eating can be described as episodes of binge-eating, grazing and/or eating when not hungry to soothe feelings. Emotional eaters have a pattern of eating to cope with stress, emotional conflicts and problems of daily life.

Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. Instead of physical symptoms initiating the eating, ...

What Is Your Bottom Line?

This week's Parshah (Torah reading) is the Parshah of Pinchas the Zealot: the courageous young priest who stood up against idolatry and immorality and, in the end, saved Israel from a devastating plague.

While Pinchas' radical response made him a hero worthy of having a Torah section named after him, we wouldn't necessarily suggest to our children ...

ELL Summer Experience at Westfield Public Schools

Westfield students representing six different languages recently enjoyed a weeklong summer camp focused on providing meaningful enrichment activities for students to continue their English language acquisition while having fun.

The ELL (English Language Learners) Summer Experience ran from July 9-13 at Wilson School, welcoming students in grades 1-4 whose native languages are Russian, ...

Westfield Area YMCA: Take Swim Lessions This Summer

The Westfield Area YMCA is providing a free one-week guest pass to non-members which will also enable access to purchase a week of swim lessons at full member rates during the summer.  The one-week guest pass includes use of the Y’s fitness facilities, land and water group exercise classes and open gym/swim.

“Our goal is to have people of all ages and skill levels grow to ...

Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper Welcomes Stephen A. Timoni to Firm

Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper P.C., announced that Stephen A. Timoni has joined the firm in its Westfield office. Stephen will focus his practice in the areas of Corporate and Health Care Law.

“Stephen brings additional depth and experience to our firm. He has tremendous experience in complex corporate, M&A and health care areas of practice. We anticipate that Stephen ...

Livingston Council Votes on Ordinance to Prohibit Vape Shops

July 19, 2018

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Concern about the increased use of electronic cigarettes and other vapor products were among the reasons why the Livingston Township Council adopted an ordinance prohibiting “vape shops,” or any establishment that primarily sells “electronic devices, liquid nicotine or vapor products,” in the township’s retail commercial ...


Eric Lieberman, 47, of Scotch Plains, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, May 22, 2018 ...
Read more