Supporting Bronx Fire Victims: MC Embraces LaSallian Values and Gives Back Amid Tragedy

By Christine Nappi, Senior Writer

The fire that erupted in a Bronx apartment building on Jan. 9 in the Fordham Heights injured and took the lives of many — leaving those who survived with no belongings or place to call home. This tragedy, while spurring feelings of heartbreak, loss and grief, also enacted feelings of empathy amongst others, including those in the Manhattan College and greater Bronx communities. 

Numerous organizations and individuals on campus and in the local area have coordinated initiatives to support the Bronx fire victims. These initiatives include donating supplies like food and water, clothing, money and more, in the hopes of helping those impacted by the fire. 

Jacquie Martin, coordinator of Campus Ministry and Social Action, finds that supporting those in need and giving back to the community is a pillar of the college’s Lasallian mission. She emphasizes that in a moment like this, it is crucial that the college give back to the Bronx community at large, and is happy to see many organizations doing so. 

“I think the fact that people want to move to action really speaks volumes about the Lasallian mission coming out in each of us, and I think its great,” Martin said. “I think it’s so great when [everyone] take[s] that mission, because it’s really all of our missions. Take that and run with it and we’re all able to help contribute in different ways, from different people that we might be connected with, or different organizations we might be connected with. So it’s nice to see everyone kind of like come out and be supportive.”

CMSA itself coordinates numerous services projects and programs throughout the year, including its Service on Saturdays program, the Lasallian Outreach Collaborative program and the community engaged federal work study program. For the Bronx fire cause specifically, they encouraged those in the MC community to donate to The Mayor’s Fund, the SAR-Bronx Fire Fund and a GoFundMe page created by Bronx community members. 

CMSA also works with two community partners, Part of the Solution, better known as POTS, and the Bronx Chamber of Commerce who are looking for volunteers and donations toward this cause specifically. The office also encouraged the college community to drop off supplies at the Riverdale Jewish Community Center, one of the many organizations in the local neighborhood to be supporting this cause. 

Oren Hiller, Executive Director of the Riverdale Jewish Center, notes that the center collected hundreds of bags of clothing and supplies, and raised nearly $10,000 for those affected by the fire. He finds that acts of service like this are a prominent part of the Riverdale Jewish Center’s community. 

“Our membership at the Riverdale Jewish Center thinks constantly about its role in the greater Bronx community [and] we build active and vibrant relationships with local elected officials,” Hiller wrote in an email to The Quad. “When news broke of the devastating fire just a few miles from our community, our members were eager to act, and our leadership was quick to partner with our senators and congresspeople to find out how best we could serve.”

Hiller particularly notes that this tragedy will leave long-term impacts, however, donating items they lost in the fire can be a way to mitigate any future challenges. 

“So many families will face long-term challenges,” Hiller wrote. “Raising funds and helping by replacing some of the items that families have lost has been identified as the best way we can help.”

In addition to the Riverdale Jewish Center, a few on-campus organizations are giving back to this cause. 

The Manhattan College Athletics Department is one organization that has supported this cause, by collecting all of their ticket sales at the men’s basketball game against Canisius on Jan. 16. Some fans made additional personal donations, and all of the funds were donated to the Bronx Fire Relief Fund set up by Mayor Eric Adams’ office. 

Whitney Swab, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Operations, oversaw this donation on behalf of the department. Swab describes that this donation allowed Athletics to give back to the community and those in need. 

“It was a really great way for us to support the community and show the community that we care,” Swab said. “I think it really ties into our Lasallian values that we have at Manhattan College that we’re going to take care of those folks who are a little bit less fortunate than us and not think about the revenue that we would have made off of the game, but instead give it to a really worthy cause.”

Swab says that contributing to this cause will help the victims understand that there is a larger community around them that will be there to support them in challenging times. She emphasizes that Manhattan College is part of the Bronx community as a whole, and just like Jaspers support Jaspers, they also need to support the Bronx community.

Swab notes that the college is in a position to enact change within the community, and that this donation is one example of how the college can help others in a significant way. 

“I think it’s really important for us to remember that we are part of the fabric of the Bronx Community and that there are folks around us who are less fortunate than us, and especially when there’s a loss like this where folks lose everything in what seems like a moment, that we have to remember that we have a lot of blessing, but we’re also able to use our platform as a way for us to have change and to support a social cause,” Swab said. 

Swab describes that the athletics department has always been committed to acts of service, and that she is proud to belong to a community that is dedicated to helping others. She encourages others to support this cause, and notes that there are many ways to help other than through monetary donations, such as volunteering, collecting items or doing something as simple as letting others know you care. 

Another organization on campus that has supported the Bronx community in the wake of the fire is MC TurnStyle. TurnStyle is an on-campus thrift store located in Thomas Hall that began last semester as a way for students to sustainably swap and shop clothes. The store was started with the idea that leftover items, after having gone through the thrifting cycle, will be donated to local, underprivileged communities. 

Emma Piazza, TurnStyle’s Executive Director of Outreach, says the store is collecting clothing items and donating clothes leftover from last semester. TurnStyle will continue collecting clothes throughout this week and will donate them to the Gambian Youth Center on 214 E 181st Street in the Bronx.

Although TurnStyle is mainly donating clothes, they are urging others to do anything they can to help this cause, whether it be donating food, water, or other supplies. However, Piazza finds that donating clothes specifically during this time is crucial in helping the victims survive the winter season.

“People’s lives have just been completely uprooted by what happened,” Piazza said. “When a fire affects you and your home, everything kind of goes with it and so I think for a lot of people, their wardrobe is now gone, and they don’t have anything to really dress themselves, especially in the winter months, when you kind of need to be well dressed so you’re not freezing.”

According to Piazza, TurnStyle had a great turnout when the store opened last semester, with students donating clothes left and right. Donating this cause is just the start of TurnStyle’s community outreach initiatives, as Piazza days they plan to support more causes like this. 

TurnStyle, along with the many other organizations who are supporting this cause, encourage others in the Manhattan College community to give back and contribute to the LaSallian mission. 

“[Giving back to the community] aligns with the LaSallian values of being at this school, and I think just more now than ever we need to unite as a community of people and help each other and treat others the way that we want to be treated,” Piazza said. “And so I think anyway that you can do that from volunteering to donating to directly giving back, we as Manhattan College students should be taking advantage of, and I think that’s taught here at this school.”