Community aids victims of devastating Seabrook fire
As word spread about a drive to help victims of a devastating Feb. 26 fire at Emerald Shores Apartments, the organizer of the relief effort had to keep moving the ever-growing pile of donations to larger storage areas.
After the four-alarm fire that collapsed one structure and destroyed at least 30 units at Emerald Shores, Rusty Cates immediately organized a donation drive for families who were left homeless.
As donations increased, Cates moved his efforts from a truck to a storage shed and now to a warehouse.
Clothing, furniture, mattresses, even washer/dryer units have been donated, Cates said. Monetary donations are being deposited to The Emerald Shores Fire Relief Fund at Compass Bank, 4452 NASA Parkway.
"We're a place where the community gathers," Cates said of his business, Coffee Oasis, 4650 NASA Parkway. "Whenever something is going on, people come in, they talk about it. It's a natural gathering place."
Coffee Oasis barista Monica Slaugh-Selmon said the community's generosity has moved her to tears.
"One of our regulars always buys three coffees when he comes in," Slaugh-Selmon said. "Last time, he gave us an extra $100. And a little girl made us all cry when she handed us a folded up $1 bill and said it was to help the people in the fire."
In addition, "Fire Hurts, Red Cross Helps," a campaign to raise awareness and funds so the Houston Area Red Cross can provide assistance to fire victims in a 16-county coverage area, has been assisting.
Campaign spokesman Russell Hubbard said the effort assisted 26 families — approximately 62 people - with shelter the night after the fire and has provided more than $20,000 worth of debit cards for families to purchase food, clothing, shoes, bedding and medicine.
Cates said he wants everybody to remember the person he described as the hero in the catastrophe.
Valeriy Aloehin, 33, was the only apartment resident to suffer serious injuries, a direct result of his decision to knock on other residents' doors to tell them about the fire before evacuating the building himself.
Aloehin's girlfriend, Olga Mcdade, 31, and her 3-year-old daughter Sofia were spending the night at Aloehin's place when the fire broke out around 5 a.m.
"He started screaming at me - I've never heard him be so loud - to take the child and run," she said. "I grabbed my daughter and her blanket and ran. I looked back and saw the flames. I couldn't believe my eyes."
Mcdade wanted to get her daughter away from the "horror" of it all, but she was also extremely worried about Aloehin, someone she had only recently trusted enough to begin a relationship with and expose her daughter to.
She didn't see Aloehin when he finally came out of the building, but was told that he was on fire and already shedding skin when he jumped into the swimming pool.
Aloehin, who suffered burns over 70 percent of his body, is being treated at Sealy Hospital, a part of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
Mcdade, who along with her daughter is now living with a friend in Pearland, recently started a job in the floral department at Kroger. She tries to visit Aloehin as often as she can.
"I'm sure he knew I was there the first time I came," she said. "I whispered that I loved him, and I could see his chest moving, like he was breathing very, very strong. I wanted to hold him, but I didn't want to hurt him."
Mcdade said Aloehin's recovery has been one step forward, two steps back.
He recently suffered a setback with a drop in blood pressure, temporary kidney failure and surgery to remove dead tissue in his abdomen.
He will remain in hospital for several months and faces numerous surgeries, Mcdade said. He does not have insurance.
"He has so much life to live," she said. "I think he'll make it. He has to. I don't want him to be taken from us. I'm ready to spend the rest of my days with him. That's all I want. I just want him to stay alive."
Local Advertising by PaperG