Charity Overwhelms In Wake Of Union Street Fire

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Charity efforts began almost immediately after flames erupted and destroyed five buildings on Union Street Sunday morning. Those efforts include area organizations as well as online movements.

The American Red Cross brought toiletries for the more than 30 displaced Ohio University students and provided coffee and breakfast for the emergency responders. What they would have done after that was taken up by Ohio University instead.

Dean of Students, Jenny Hall-Jones, stationed herself at Baker University Center with other university employees to start helping the students that were brought out of their homes, mainly from pounding on doors by firefighters and police officers.

"We're prepared to support them in any way we can," said OU spokeswoman Stephanie Filson at a news conference held Sunday afternoon.

At the same time as the conference, OU President Roderick McDavis and officials from the Office of Student Affairs held a meeting with students explaining what they would do now that they were without homes and supplies.

Meal plans and Bobcat Cash have been extended to the students, Filson said. There is no timeline on the hotel stays for the students whose apartment were damaged or destroyed in the blaze that began at about 4 a.m. on Sunday.

"We are also trying to secure gift cards to Walmart … and linen packets are being provided," Filson said.

Meanwhile, donation boxes and tables inside a room at Ohio University were filling up with piles of clothes, soap, toothpaste, and other needs. The boxes outside the Front Room Coffee Shop were overflowing and piles of bags formed around them.

"I was home for the weekend and I heard it on the news," said Hannah Holstein, a sophomore who brought bags filled with clothes, Advil and Chapstick. "I was thinking about if it happened to some of my friends who live off campus, and what I would need in the winter."

The university was "overwhelmed" with donations, so much so that Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi tweeted that they no longer needed donations.

"I have never seen anything like it," Lombardi posted on his Twitter account. "The way you support each other is incredible."

Late Sunday night, efforts to help employees of the buildings and to help bring back one of the buildings affected in the blaze began online.

Two fundraisers are active at, one created by Tiffany Chapman and one by Pete Shooner, both Athens residents.

Chapman is fighting to bring back The Union, a bar that is close to her heart and the hearts of many in the area, as she has found through her experiences in college and as she stayed in the area.

"My husband and I had our first date there and I used to go to shows there all the time," Chapman said. "It's not the kind of place where you just go have a beer."

As of The Messenger's deadline, Chapman's site has only received $257 of the $50,000 goal, but she is hopeful that she can bring much-needed money back to the bar.

She said she wants the place to come back to its former glory so even more decades of students and Athenians can come back to the place she knew and loved so well. She chose to use Go Fund Me because the fundraising options are not limited, and she knew she could give the money directly to Union owner, Eric Gunn.

"I've known Eric for years and I knew if I started this it would be easy to just give the money directly to him," Chapman said.

Shooner said he discussed the idea of starting a fundraiser on the site with his wife after he heard about the fire.

"We were just sort of blown away and kind of lost as to what to do to help," Shooner said. "We realized insurance might not cover their employees and the lost wages of their employees."

The fundraiser already has $13,387 of the $20,000 goal but Shooner said he can expand the goal and the length of time for the goal as much as is needed. He plans to coordinate with business owners to get the money to the employees who need it most.

"Theoretically, there's no end date, and this can continue as long as we need it to," Shooner said.