The following content was originally distributed through IMPACT Silver Spring's September e-newsletter.
Community Rays of Light: A Reflection on the Flower Branch Apartment Fire
As I reflect on last week’s devastating gas explosion and fire at Flower Branch apartments, the government and non-profit response efforts over the past week have been admirable. At the same time, we also celebrate the many residents who stepped forward to offer what they could to help their neighbors in need. These neighbors understood that they didn’t need any special expertise, title, or position to help out, just a willingness to connect and contribute.
Here are just a few examples of the many resident actions that sprang up from the IMPACT network:
- Alicia Lopez from the Micro-Entrepreneur Circle joined with other neighbors living on nearby Carroll Avenue to prepare hot food for uprooted families. The food was taken directly to the apartment site and distributed from a resident’s pick-up truck.
- Beatriz Cordero-Acea from the Child Care Provider Circle tapped her networks of childcare providers and recruited 2 volunteers to care for the children of parents attending an important community meeting for Flower Branch apartment residents.
- Margaret Brosnan volunteered at an IMPACT information tent set-up on the grounds of the Long Branch Community Center to help with directing would-be donors to sites receiving donations. She also delivered donations left at the Community Center to CASA de Maryland’s Welcome Center for sorting and distribution.
- Claudia Hernandez door-knocked at Flower Branch apartments to share information about available emergency services and to give out $15 food vouchers donated by Montgomery Housing Partnership and St. Luke Lutheran Church.
- Irena Siebentritt and her busband Edher Lopez helped to entertain children at an event organized by IMPACT and held in the Flower Branch apartments parking lot. Irena and Edher helped with piñatas and other fun distractions. Some 60 children participated in the event which also included sports activities.
These stories remind us of what Peter Block shared with us on his recent visit to Silver Spring: “Our institutions can offer only service – not care – for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another….As neighbors, we care for each other. We care for our children. We care for our elders. We care for those most vulnerable among us. It is this care that is the basic power of a community of citizens.”
We lift up these residents’ actions as emblematic of what it looks like to live in a robust “community of citizens”, where neighbors can easily bring forward their contributions and create and activate social connections for good. These stories of human compassion and care remind us of what neighbors can and ought to be doing for each other – both in times of crisis, and in times of normalcy. After all, it is this network of neighbor to neighbor relationships that will form the foundation for a strong and sustainable community over the long term.
Network Building Opportunities
If you are a Long Branch resident and over 18 years of age, please consider participating in the following upcoming network opportunities:
DOOR-KNOCKING - Help out by going door-to-door to meet your neighbors in the Flower Branch apartment community, listen to their concerns and interests, and share valuable information about activities and resources. Door-knockers are required to complete a short training before going out. Door-knocking is always done in teams of 2 or more.
HOSTING HANGOUTS - Help with hosting "hangouts," which are topical spaces where residents gain hard value, build relationships, and learn network principles. You will help with planning these network spaces and welcoming your neighbors into them. Volunteers are required to attend planning meetings. Hangout topics are to be determined.
We are especially looking for people who are bilingual (English/Spanish, English/Amharic, English/French), and committed to building relationships with their neighbors to create a high quality place to live and work.