By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
The neighborhood of Sunnyside proved its resiliency at Monday night’s fund-raiser for The Sunnyside Fire Relief Fund, which will assist those affected by last week’s five-alarm inferno on Queens Boulevard.
The first of four fund-raisers raised $36,000 for the victims of last week’s five-alarm fire that gutted a row of stores on Queens Boulevard between 45th and 46th Street. The fire left 12 people injured — seven fireman and five civilians — and completely destroyed six businesses.
“It’s beautiful, the community stuck together,” said Larry Stroumbos, co-owner of New York Style Eats, one of the businesses that the fire consumed.
According to President of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Melissa Orlando, $125,113.75 has been raised in total for the relief fund. This includes proceeds from ticket sales to Monday night’s fund-raiser, donations made via a GoFundMe campaign, vendor donations and the result of collections at Sunnyside businesses.
Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, one of the organizers of the event, has not responded to questions about how the money will be distributed.
But the community’s compassion cannot just be measured by dollars. Groups of friends and family came in droves to wait for a chance to get into Sunnyside Community Services where the fund-raiser was held. Tickets sold out before the doors even opened at 6 p.m.
Vendors participating in the fund-raiser’s pop-up market — 16 in all — donated at least 10 percent of their proceeds to the relief fund. Free food and drink was provided by 28 local vendors to feed the more than 750 fund-raiser attendees.
Everyone in attendance was in good cheer, including those who had lost almost everything to the fire.
“It’s been a hard two weeks before Christmas,” said Susan Parker, a employee of New York Style Eats, who was touched by the turnout. “It’s impressive.”
Parker took part in a career event held earlier on Monday at the Sunnyside Community Services which helped her quickly land an interview at LaGuardia Airport.
Attendees repeatedly said that the holiday season had nothing to do with the turnout, community members are just naturally supportive of one another be a fire or a surprising presidential campaign.
According to Sunnyside resident, Kendall Jacques, what doesn’t kill Sunnyside only makes it stronger. A prime example of this to Jacques was how left-leaning residents leaned on each for support after Trump’s 2016 presidential win.
“After Trump’s inauguration, we took a hit and then people came out and we gained something,” said Jacques. “I’ve met some amazing people in really difficult times.”