Community helps fire victims on Staten Island

December 22, 2011 2:39:29 PM PST
A community on Staten Island is pulling together.

Fire destroyed one of their neighbors' homes, but friends and strangers are trying to make sure it doesn't destroy Christmas.

Denise Miranda is practically living out of her car, following the fire that wiped out most of what she owned.

"Couple of things we tried to salvage, but basically everything is gone," Miranda said.

Denise is a single mother of two kids.

A framed display of family photos is just about the only possession left.

The fire department is still cleaning up at the rented house, which was also home to her mother, sister and brother, as well as a tenant family of four.

When the fire broke out Tuesday night, everyone was home.

"Thank God for her brother. He woke up and got everyone up and out," said John Collins, a family friend.

Denise, her family and the others all got out with only the clothes on their backs; thankful, of course, that no one was hurt, but devastated by the sight of their home in flames.

"The fire was so bad, they can't tell where it started or how it started or anything like that," Miranda.

But Denise has friends and caring strangers stepping up to help.

The restaurant known as "Griff's Place" has become donation central.

"This time of the year, the last thing you want to have is your house to burn to the ground and lose everything, especially when you have gifts for the kids; and when people come out with their hearts and give, it's a great thing," said Dominic Griffo, restaurant owner.

Griff and Denise are colleagues at Verizon. He has also used a Facebook page to collect donations.

"It's just a wonderful thing Griff is doing for her and I just feel horrible for her," said Barbara Dreisch, a restaurant customer.

"Everyone is just opening their hearts and their wallets. It's amazing," Miranda said.

Denise says the donation money is enough to help her find a new place to live, which she hopes to do by Christmas Day.

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