Fairfield & Bridgeport fire dept’s assist family displaced by fire
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Fairfield, CT – This was one emergency call that firefighters at Jennings Road Engine 2 Fire Station were glad to receive.
The call came from Terry O’Connell of Bridgeport Engine 12 on behalf of the Bridgeport Firefighters Christmas Family Fund. O’Connell was seeking their support in helping deliver a holiday bounty to a Bridgeport family that had lost their home to fire and been temporarily relocated to Fairfield.
The family – Sheronda Jackson and her children Jamil, 12, and Shayla, 17 – had lived in a home on Adams Street in Bridgeport until fire gutted it on November 28. They initially went to live with a grandparent in Norwalk until Sheronda’s company, Onward Healthcare, at which she is a compliance coordinator, stepped up to cover an apartment rental for a period of six months. The apartment is located at 114 Brentwood Avenue, less than a mile from the Jennings Road station.
The Fund was started eight years ago by a retired Bridgeport firefighter, Bo Diaz, and his daughter Haley. O’Connell explained that every school in the city of Bridgeport has a social worker assigned to it and they help the Fund’s committee identify deserving families. The needy are also identified through churches and community organizations.
The Fund is 100% supported by donations. This year, $40,000 was raised, which is “down about half” from the previous year, said O’Connell. Donors included Firefighters Union Local 834, Al’s Angels and private citizens. In 2009, the Fund helped 45 families. This year, 40 families, which include about 140 children, are being assisted.
Typical help includes food baskets, toys and meals. The meal is a complete family Christmas dinner including a spiral ham, a turkey, all the fixings and even dessert.
“We almost weren’t able to do the food baskets,” said O’Connell. “Then Paul Crisci of Port Group Solutions in Monroe stepped up with $1,000 which allowed us to cover our funding gap due to an increase in food costs. He was one of our big angels this year.”
As a convoy of vehicles was prepared to make the short hop over to the Jackson’s temporary quarters, Fairfield firefighter Rick Kazzi said of the effort, “It’s a good thing they do.”
Kazzi and fellow firefighter Bob Smith led the procession in Rescue 1 while the department’s Engine 2 and Ladder 2 trucks, as well as a Chevy Suburban carrying a team of Bridgeport firefighters, followed behind. As they neared the home, the vehicles sounded their sirens, which brought the Jacksons outside to their landing.
Firefighters scaled the stairs with gifts and holiday provisions – not firefighting gear – in hand, much to Sheronda’s relief. “I heard the sirens and said, ‘Oh, no, not again,” she said. As the family and fire personnel gathered in the home’s sparsely furnished front room and presents were placed under a modest tree in one corner, Sheronda shared her thoughts about the fire and being displaced.
“The fire was traumatic,” she said. “I’d never been through anything like that before. Without my job, I don’t know.”
Sheronda said they will have family from Norwalk over on Christmas Eve and celebrate Christmas in the three-bedroom apartment.