DOVER — During the council meeting on Tuesday, October 24, Town of Dover Mayor Carolyn Blackman refrained from discussing the whereabouts of the clothing donations and gift cards meant for fire victims. Instead, she pointed to the Kiwanis Club of Greater Dover, despite the club not receiving any donations at the Town Hall.
During the meeting, several residents who had suffered losses in the tragic West Blackwell fire sought information regarding the whereabouts of the donations and gift cards. The calamity on Saturday, September 16, had reduced two businesses and several apartments to ashes.
In the statement echoed by residents during the meeting that has ruffled feathers in the community, Mayor Blackman reportedly advised residents to “Go back to work so you can pay for your deposits, and also to stop having more children.”
Several employees, who wished to remain anonymous due to concerns about potential repercussions, validated the accuracy of the Mayor’s statement. Their hesitance to come forward publicly underscores the gravity of the remark and its implications.
The severity of the five-alarm fire led to the displacement of numerous individuals. Firefighters made an initial effort to tackle the flames from within the three-story building located near Dewey and Whitewell Street. But the precarious state of the roof, especially above the Jai-Alai restaurant, necessitated their withdrawal and a reconsideration of their strategy.
Gabriella Lanza said “I’m one of the people that were in the office where Mayor Blackman stated to go back to work so we could pay for our deposit and also to stop having children, more children. I think that’s a lack of respect and I think that’s inhumane.”
Lanza stated that she was present when Blackman told a resident to “Go back to work so we can pay for our deposits, and also to stop having more children.”
Many of the residents wanted to know where the donations of clothing and gift cards went that were dropped off at Town Hall.
“…Residents in town were helping us with donations, and gift cards, but we have not received anything. We were a family of seven. My daughter had to leave the State of Maryland. We didn’t have the resources to survive at all. She was one of the people who came to the office where the mayor told them just to go back to work because they were not going to give us money to help us get an apartment. Thank you for listening to us and hopefully all the resources that it was supposed to be for us will eventually go to us,” said Oscar Garnica.
Zaira Ventura stated she went to Town Hall and hasn’t received any of the donations.
Mayor Blackman responded to one fire victim “This is not the way a meeting is to be run. Everyone came here with a political agenda. We have the Kiwanis Club that can answer questions about all of these.” The Mayor responded to the speaker’s inquiries regarding the whereabouts of the donated clothing and gift cards.
“And then the Kiwanis Club came here to this meeting but didn’t speak. But they were involved with all these shenanigans. So to clear it all up, I said to them, please come to Town Hall and take whatever we have,” said Mayor Blackman.
Frank Cahill from Kiwanis Club said “I don’t know what meeting Blackman was talking about. I don’t know what meeting she was referring to. No one from the Kiwanis Club was at the previous meeting on Tuesday, October 10. My contact information is clearly displayed on the DoverKiwanis.org website, yet I have not received any phone calls. In addition, the Kiwanis Club never received any donations from the Mayor’s Office to distribute, so I am unsure why she would tell the residents that the Kiwanis Club can answer questions about the donated clothing and gift cards.”
The Greater Dover Kiwanis Club successfully conducted a clothing drive, amassing over 300 pounds of garments tailored to a specific list of children’s ages and sizes. The collected items were then distributed to the families by the club’s president, Sergio Rodriguez.
Furthermore, in a collaborative effort with the IHOP of Kenvil, the Kiwanis Club of Greater Dover contributed 45 turkey dinners. These meals were delivered to the victims at the Faith-Based Network, located at 20 Thompson Avenue.
The Dover Rotary Club started a GoFundMe page with the hopes of raising $30,000 to be distributed to the fire victims. At the time of this article, only $1,810 was raised. Morris Focus did a story on fundraising and distributed the story through our media outlets. The page is still open, to make a donation, click here. The Rotary Club stated: “This GoFundMe page offers hope to the victims and will help offset the funds needed for them to find another residence. These families left their homes with minimal clothing; no food; no supplies; and no furniture. Many of the families have been assisted by residents in the short term, but they will need to find other living arrangements. Please help them to find a new place to live.”
The Rotary Club will be distributing the funds at a meeting with the victims on November 13 at 5:00 p.m. at the Faith-Based Network, 20 Thompson Avenue.
The faith-based network (20 Thompson Avenue) took an inventory of everything given to the fire victims. They can provide it if needed. The town never provided the facility with any donations.