Benefit concert steps up for victims of Christmas Day apartment fire

Six apartments destroyed, another six damaged. Now the community is coming together to help those affected.

AUSTIN - While the Jollyville Fire Department hasn't been able to pinpoint the exact cause of The Hendrix Apartment Homes fire which displaced several families Christmas morning, they have confirmed a few facts. And now the community is coming together to help out those who have been affected.

The unexpected blaze was likely accidental, Chief John Kiracofe said, and before it could be put out, it completely burned six of the units in building nine. An additional six units were deemed uninhabitable due to water and smoke damage, which meant that half the units in building nine were ruined in the fire.

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While the Red Cross and local churches have worked to help those who found themselves suddenly homeless, the residents of those apartments are still working to move forward.

Wani Dogale, 22, was one of the residents forced to move out after the fire. He's been relocated to another apartment unit in The Hendrix apartment complex, and given some money by the Red Cross. Even with that help though, he only has air mattresses and a small amount of clothing to his name.

"It is very sad that I couldn't get one thing out of there," he told KVUE Thursday. 

Despite the daunting situation before him, Dogale has remained optimistic. 

"I'm grateful that I'm still alive, that my roommate is still alive and that everybody around me is still alive," he said. "Little things like furniture burn, but they can also be rebuilt."

Part of Dogale's hope comes from news of help.

Community organizer and volunteer Rick Perkins put together a benefit concert for all the apartment fire victims.

"I want those kids joyous. I want those adults to have a moment of relief," he said. "I want to tell them you're not alone."

Perkins lined up multiple performers for the event Friday night, including comedian Sheena Simmons and musician Michael W. Chapman.

"Imagine coming home and all you have is gone," Simmons said. 

The comedian also works in insurance and is friends with the apartment complex's leasing officer. She said it's important not to take the fire lightly, but to help people process the incident using humor.

"I want everyone to look at us and this situation and say, 'You know what, we see enough evil in the world. This is where we all come together and shine light and realize that there's still good people,'" she said. 

Chapman agrees with that sentiment.

"This is what it means to be in a community. We serve each other," Chapman said. "When I need help, help comes. When people need help, I help."

Friday night the event took place in a packed room at Patsy's Cafe at 5001 E. Ben White Boulevard. There was no fee for attendance, but donations in the form of money, gift cards or items were welcome.

"This is all about healing and recovery," Perkins said. 

"It's an honor for me to be able to use my music to heal the hearts of those who have lost things," musician Dr. Pele said. 

"It's really an event of giving," Chapman said. "I mean I don't have a lot, but I'm certainly willing to share. That's what being a community is all about." 

"I am glad people are looking out for us," Dogale said. "It is a blessing and I know now that everyone has good hearts." 

"We can't replace everyone's memories, we can't replace their home, but we can help them at least get started on getting back on track," Simmons said. 

There was no fee for attendance at the benefit concert, but all donations will go straight to those affected. The goal is to raise $50,000 for the families affected by the fire. 

© 2018 KVUE-TV


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