A fund created to help a Hyattsville family devastated by a fire in January has climbed to $55,000, said creator Stuart Eisenberg.
In the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 19, the Hyattsville house where the Zelaya Hernandez family lived caught fire. Of the seven members of their extended family in the house that night, only five escaped. Nine-year-old Kimberly Hernandez and her sister, 13-year-old Kelly Hernandez, died as a result of the blaze.
The fire destroyed the house where the family had been living for the past four years, creating an estimated $350,000 in damage to the home’s structure and content, according to fire officials.
Eisenberg, 47, a close neighbor of the Hernandezes and a former president of the Hyattsville City Council, set up the relief fund for the family shortly after the fire.
He said the money raised by the fund helped replace the family’s car, which was damaged by the blaze. The money was also used to help the Hernandezes with their rent, to pay for funeral expenses and to buy household items, clothing and new mattresses.
The family “had to put together a full household again,” said Eisenberg, adding there was nothing to recover from the house after the fire.
Eisenberg, the executive director of the nonprofit Hyattsville Community Development Corp., said monetary donations for the family are still being accepted, but not goods.
He said funds are being used to address the family’s needs as they come up.
The Rev. Vidal Rivas, 46, head of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hyattsville, said the family is recovering and now lives in Langley Park. He has been giving the spiritual support, he said, and sees them often in church.
“They are doing very well,” he said.
–By Maryland Newsline’s Maite Fernandez