Yolanda DeJesus was at work when she got the phone call from her sister. Yolanda’s home was on fire, and it looked like everything was destroyed.
“It was horrible,” said DeJesus, 42. “It was the worst thing ever.”
However, DeJesus, a certified nursing assistant at Alaris Health at Harborview, who cares for residents with long-term health needs, found help in unexpected places.
An administrator at Alaris started a crowdfunding page to help raise money for DeJesus and her family. The original goal was to raise $1,000, which Alaris pledged to match. They have raised almost $3,000.
“I really didn’t expect such a big outpouring of help,” said DeJesus. “The way they came through for me, I really appreciate it.”
The two-alarm fire at 174 Armstrong Ave. on Dec. 23 caused extensive damage to the two-story building, displacing six residents. DeJesus, her father and her 9-year-old son lived on the second floor of the home. Firefighters were met with heavy fire conditions and “flames blowing out of the roof,” Jersey City Fire Battalion Chief Bill McClintock said at the time.
After speaking with fire officials, DeJesus was able to enter what was left of her apartment. She found that all of her family’s belongings were destroyed.
Nothing was salvageable.
Her 73-year-old father had heard a loud boom in the bedroom as he was sitting in the living room of their apartment. He has trouble with his sight, but he felt a wave of intense heat as he opened the door to the bedroom.
Luckily, he was able to escape the blaze while Yolanda’s son was at school during the fire.
Kevin Woodard, the Alaris administrator, said that “we just felt that we had to do something.”
“The Harborview family would do it for any one of our employees,” said Woodard.
DeJesus’s patients have joined her coworkers in helping out. Some of them have contributed by donating money and a card. While DeJesus and her family are currently living with her sister in Bayonne, she has used some of the money donated for essentials, like clothing. But she is saving most of it in the hope of using it to help fund her search for a new home.
Even though the fire has been an unexpected hardship for DeJesus and her family, she said the flood of support has changed her outlook on life.
“It really turned a tragedy into a blessing,” she said.