BLOOMINGTON — There is no longer a need for clothing, food or toiletries for victims of Saturday's apartment fire, but officials are still accepting donations of money and gift cards.
That is the latest word from the Bloomington Fire Department that said Monday morning a cause of the fire has still not been determined.
"Due to the extent of damage caused by the fire, the cause of fire is undetermined at this time," BFD said in a statement that also thanked fire departments and other organizations, including the Red Cross, that assisted.
Gift cards and money can be dropped off at Stevenson Elementary School until 4 p.m. Monday. The school, at 2106 Arrowhead Drive, is near the fire scene.
The Saturday afternoon fire destroyed an apartment complex on Bloomington’s east side, displacing seven families and a total of 29 people from the 12-unit, two-story building.
A firefighter suffered a minor injury but has since been released from the hospital. The fire was reported at 3:08 p.m., the first BFD unitl was there in four minutes and the fire was brought under control at 8:30 p.m., said BFD.
Word spread quickly about the need for help. Tanya Blumenshine is a kindergarten teacher at Stevenson, located several blocks from the fire.
“I learned that I had two kids in my class that lived there,” she said. “We knew we had to do something to help out.”
Through social media, administrators, teachers and volunteers coordinated an effort to start a donation drive at the schools for food, clothing, toys and other items the families will need. Dinner also was served for the families Sunday night.
By noon on Sunday, the elementary school gym at Stevenson was full of donated items.
“You look around and you see all of this already and it might surprise some people, but I’m not surprised at all,” Blumenshine said. “People are great. This school is great. When people are in need, they respond.”
The volunteers were collecting clothes, gift cards for restaurants, pillows, blankets, toiletries, boots, hats, gloves, winter wear, storage totes for families to keep items in, and even monetary donations.
“I had a bunch of old clothes that I had intended to either sell at a garage sale or donate somewhere,” said Bloomington resident Kristin Turner. “I feel so sorry for these families and wish there was more I could do.”
“It’s just awful that this fire did so much damage and many of these families lost everything,” said Stevenson Principal Katy Hansen. “It’s not going to be easy for them. Hopefully, we can make a difference for them.”
BFD on Monday thanked the other fire agencies that responded, including Normal, Towanda and Downs, and police, public works, and water departments — and the nearby IHOP restaurant that provided coffee and hot chocolate to fire crews.