Kareem Clarke awoke on Dec. 22 to the sound of his brother Brian’s screams from the floor above him. He ran upstairs and into a cloud of smoke, only to find his brother trying desperately to extinguish an electrical fire that was overtaking their three-story home.
By the time the Fire Department arrived just past 10 am, the blaze had completely gutted the Lefferts Avenue row house that’s been in the Clarke family for four generations, leaving them to pick up the pieces.
That’s when their neighbors stepped in.
Almost immediately after the flames were extinguished, neighbors living on Lefferts between Rogers and Nostrand avenues organized to bring bags of winter clothes and food to the family, and launched a GoFundMe to help raise them some cash.
“The outpouring of help and effort from everyone was amazing,” said Clarke. “They were our guardian angels yesterday.”
The fundraising campaign was spearheaded by the family’s next-door neighbor, Anton Gold, who Clarke says stayed calm as the situation unraveled, dialing authorities in the moment and later helping to organize donations along with neighbor Alan Durden.
“He saved lives, definitely,” Clarke said. “From organizing the bags and food, and the GoFundMe, that man is a saint. I’m so grateful for him.”
Of utmost importance, Anton said on the GoFundMe page, is that no one was hurt.
“The greatest blessing is that no one was seriously injured in the fire that destroyed the home on Lefferts Ave this morning,” he wrote.
Though there were no injuries, the multi-generational home was left uninhabitable. The Clarke family will be staying with family-friends and in a hotel paid for by the Red Cross for the time being.
Until they can start to rebuild, Clarke said he will remain most thankful for the community helping his family.
“I just know that God has an amazing gift in store for everyone who helped us,” he said.
This story first appeared on our sister publication brooklynpaper.com.