SUNNYSIDE, Queens — In just five days since a devastating fire gutted six businesses, donations have poured in.
More than $75,000 has been raised between a GoFundMe page and a well-attended fundraiser Monday evening at Sunnyside Community Services Center.
The organizer of the event says 100 percent of the proceeds will go to victims of the fire.
“The way that everyone is waiting to give a helping hand to be part of the safety net for all these folks displaced at the height of the holiday season, it’s certainly a strong testament to what a special place this is,” said Jaime-Faye Bean, Executive Director of Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District.
Hundreds attended tonight’s fundraising event.
So many so, they had to split the entrance into two sessions: One from 6-7:30 p.m.,and the second from 7:30 - 9 p.m.
Even after ticket sales were closed online, people waited in a line outside to get in.
“When I tell people I have a small town feeling in a city that’s why I enjoy Sunnyside,” said resident Francelia Febus, who spoke to us as she waited to purchase raffle tickets.
Febus tells us the businesses lost were a staple in the community.
“I know the business owners. They say hello when I walk my dog in the neighborhood. They’re like an extended family,” Febus said.
Early Thursday morning, a 5-alarm blaze engulfed the six businesses on Queens Blvd. between 45th and 46th Streets.
They include several businesses that have been there for decades. One restaurant, Sidetracks, underwent a recent renovation.
Another store, Romantic Depot, opened less than two months ago.
The owners, including that of a UPS shipping store, rely on customers this time of year.
“It hurts big time but the attitude is moving forward for a better day,” said Tony Tang, UPS Store owner.
“I’m proud to be from Sunnyside, I love Sunnyside, added a grateful Tang. “Sunnyside people are always together and we get stronger from rebuilding.”
Bryan Chunton, owner of Zen Yai, the Vietnamese restaurant that was impacted, donated tonight’s food from his other restaurant, Eat’s Khao Man Gai in the East Village.
“I’m overwhelmed with all the people here, and I appreciate it,” Chunton said.
The fundraiser not only helps the owners of the gutted stores, but also the 70 or so employees of those businesses now without jobs during the holiday season.
People like Felix Poma, who worked at New York Style Eats and has also lived in Sunnyside for 20 years.
“I felt I lost a little part of life I began working there 11 years ago,” Poma said. “I cannot have enough words to thank everybody for all the effort they made, I’m really, really thankful for that.”
In a shining example of neighbor helping neighbor, tonight’s fundraiser was $20 for admission and inside there was food, live entertainment, a raffle, a silent action, holiday shops, even Santa Claus.
There’s no exact given amount yet, but organizers tell PIX11, victims will each get an initial disbursement before the holiday and another disbursement after the new year.
The FDNY is still investigating the cause of the fire.
Although several owners have vowed to rebuild, it’s not immediately clear if they are able on the same site, now all boarded up.
If you missed tonight’s fundraiser, you can still contribute either calling the Sunnyside Shines office at (718) 606-1800 or by visiting their GoFundMe page.