NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — When tragedy strikes in the Berkshires, the community responds.
Within hours of a devastating fire on Houghton Street that left five families homeless, donation drives had already begun to help them get back on their feet.
Peter Oleskiewicz, owner of Desperados on Eagle Street, raised $500 with an impromptu chicken wing fundraiser on Tuesday night. He's also accepting cash and gift card donations at the restaurant through this week with plans to divvy up the proceeds and deliver them to the families on Friday.
"These people had nothing but the clothes on their backs," he said.
The Readsboro (Vt.) Inn and the Greylock Club have both started donation buckets with a $100 contribution to start. And Grazie's Matt Tatro was whipping up dinners on Wednesday to deliver to the fire victims.
"I wanted to know how I could help and I thought I could bring the conservation together," the Stamford, Vt., resident said.
Her page has been inundated with lists of needs and offers of help, and some of the fire victims have reached out to her. One woman told Honig she was overwhelmed by all the support. Honig's still trying to piece together a master list and seeking a space for larger items, like furniture, to be stored until families can pick them up.
"I'm good with everybody posting what they know and hear," she said. "I think I'm just kind of waiting for some key players to direct people where to go."
The Salvation Army has been providing clothes, toys and food for the dispossessed and Goodwill Industries is giving out vouchers that can be redeemed in its stores. Drury High School has some clothing (contact Melanie Rancourt) and Tina Samson at the city's Veterans Office is accepting clothing donations.
Several GoFundMe drives have been set up and can be found here, here and here.
Tuesday's fire started in the front bedroom in a second-floor apartment at 246-248 Houghton St., causing significant fire, smoke and water damage to the 1884 structure. It took firefighters several hours to bring the conflagration under control. The state fire marshal has taken over the investigation, said Fire Chief Stephen Meranti.
Five of the six units were occupied and at least four of those families were reportedly able to obtain permanent or temporary housing.
Owner Charles R. "Randy" Ransford Jr. was at the property on Wednesday as people salvaged items from the first and ground floor apartments in the three-story building. Ransford had walked through with the Building Inspector William Meranti, sizing up the future of the building.
He wasn't sure if he could save it, saying he'd have to crunch the numbers, but it would be sealed up and the debris from the fire removed.
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Estate Plans Can Help You Answer Questions About the Future
Submitted by Edward Jones
The word "estate" conjures images of great wealth, which may be one of the reasons so many people don't develop estate plans. After all, they're not rich, so why make the effort? In reality, though, if you have a family, you can probably benefit from estate planning, whatever your asset level. And you may well find that a comprehensive estate plan can help you answer some questions you may find unsettling – or even worrisome.
Here are a few of these questions:
* What will happen to my children? With luck, you (and your co-parent, if you have one) will be alive and well at least until your children reach the age of majority (either 18 or 21, depending on where you live). Nonetheless, you don't want to take any chances, so, as part of your estate plans, you may want to name a guardian to take care of your children if you are not around. You also might want to name a conservator – sometimes called a "guardian of the estate" – to manage any assets your minor children might inherit.
* Will there be a fight over my assets? Without a solid estate plan in place, your assets could be subject to the time-consuming, expensive – and very public – probate process. During probate, your relatives and creditors can gain access to your records, and possibly even challenge your will. But with proper planning, you can maintain your privacy. As one possible element of an estate plan, a living trust allows your property to avoid probate and pass quickly to the beneficiaries you have named.
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