This February, members of the Southold community are teaming up to raise money for the Sweeney family whose home was heavily damaged in a fire in November.
On Nov. 7, flames ripped through the 930 Jasmine Lane home after a malfunctioning lamp cord in the basement sparked a fire. The Sweeneys were displaced from the home where they had lived since 1994.
John and Grace, known as Gem, and their three daughters, Laura, 32, Rachael, 31, and Elizabeth, 29, lost some of their possessions in the fire, as well as two of their cats. The basement and first floor of the house sustained major damage. Most of their linens, clothes and furniture were destroyed.
“They lost all their possessions on the first floor of the house,” neighbor Rose Anasagasti said. “It’s going to take a minimum of 10 months for the house to be livable.”
John, Grace and Rachael were present during the fire. John and Rachael were transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital emergency room for smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide exposure. Grace was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center for severe burns and skin graft surgery. She’s currently out of hospital and is receiving outpatient care at the Stony Brook burn clinic in East Setauket.
The Sweeneys currently live with relatives in Merrick, but their jobs are scattered across the East End.
All donations from the event will go directly to the family, Ms. Anasagasti said. Held Feb. 8 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Southold American Legion, the charity will feature a buffet, cash bar, chinese auction and raffles. Live music will be provided by Don Bracken’s band, The Bracken, and Joe Allegue.
Ms. Anasagasti, who lives seven houses down from the Sweeneys’ home, helped organize the event with fellow Jasmine Lane neighbor Mr. Bracken after they discovered the fire. They formed a committee consisting of themselves, Sonomi Obinata and Leslie Reichert to organize the event.
“I wanted her to organize this, she’s great at that,” Mr. Bracken said of Ms. Anasagasti.
Later that month, Ms. Anasagasti reached out to 10 organizations to solicit contributions, including Southold American Legion Auxiliary, Kait’s Angels, East End Lions, Southold Lions, Mattituck Lions, Southold Rotary, Peconic Landing, Cutchogue Fire Department, North Fork Animal Welfare League and Community Action Southold Town. The family helped compose a letter recalling the incident, Ms. Anasagasti said, which she later transcribed.
“We live in a small, close-knit neighborhood where we all feel connected to each other and we are all hurting for them and wanting to help out,” the letter said.
Mr. Bracken said most folks don’t understand the financial and emotional burden of a house fire, especially one that’s in a small community like Southold.
“People say, ‘They have insurance, what’s the big deal?’ But it’s all the little things they lost,” he said. “John’s new truck sat in front of house for two months because he couldn’t prove to the dealership that he was who he was because his wallet and ID were burned up.”
Organizing the event, he said, is the least the local community can do for the family.
“It’s just like giving them a big hug,” he said.
Tickets for the event are $25 per person and are currently available at Southold Pharmacy, Scott Home Health Care, Bridgehampton National Bank in Southold, or Wendy’s Deli in Mattituck. They can also be purchased over the phone by contacting Ms. Anasagasti at 631-236-3227 or Ms. Reichert at 631-745-0041.
Photo caption: The Sweeney family was displaced from the home in which they had lived since 1994.