The windy and unseasonably warm night of Feb. 13 took Gloria Concepcion and her family by surprise. One of the power lines reaching back into in her alley came loose and began to spark. Eventually, the line itself caught fire, running all the way back to their house on the 1600 block of North Lawndale Avenue to the room where her daughter Julie was sleeping.
That night, everything happened fast, Gloria Concepcion recalled, “So fast that my neighbors are the ones who called the firefighters.” The fire began in Julie’s room, and by the time her husband woke up, had already engulfed the second floor and attic of their home. “The firefighters came within five minutes, but the damage had already been done,” she said. Gloria, her husband and her two daughters, Emily and Julie, all made it out of the house safely that night.
They re-entered the house the next day to their rooms in tatters and residence of 15 years nearly unrecognizable. The first floor was structurally ruined by all of the water used to extinguish the flames, and the home’s attic caved in.
When Principal Julie Hallums of Funston Elementary School (2010 N. Central Park Ave.), along with faculty and staff, learned about what happened, they were devastated for the family. Hallums elaborated,
“What you have to understand is Gloria’s oldest daughter, Julie, was our 2016 Valedictorian, who now attends Northside Prep,” Hallums said. “She is incredible, intelligent and now all of her resources for school have been ruined. Emily, who is in seventh grade here at Funston, lost her textbooks and wardrobe in the fire, too.”
Hallums promptly started a GoFundMe campaign, which has already reached $1,800 — with a goal of $5,000 — in order to gather materials to complete the repairs to their home. Donations of clothing and school supplies have also poured in from the Funston Elementary School community and those through Facebook who heard the news. Additionally, members of Concepcion’s church reached out and are housing and sharing meals with them until the home is back in order.
“Our meals are taken care of, and we’re grateful for that,” Concepcion said. “But my daughters do need clothing and the resources that they lost for school work.”
Funds are also needed to cover the cost of architects to help design the ravaged second floor, a new boiler and wiring for electricity, with damages to the HVAC system needing attention as well. Funston Elementary School has a program called the Free Market, a service that provides food directly to Funston families through a partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which has been instrumental in helping the Concepcion family.
According to Hallums, their last GoFundMe campaign was to raise $5,000 for their sports teams, which were impacted by the recent midyear CPS budget cut. Their goal was complete in nearly three weeks. It’s been about five weeks since the Concepcion family’s house burned down, and they’re still far from their goal.
The Concepcion family is appreciative of all of the help that has been extended toward them in this difficult time, especially the help from Hallums, who started the GoFundMe campaign. “Julie Hallums is a wonderful person,” said Concepcion. “Without her, none of this help was possible.”
To donate to the GoFundMe Campaign, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/funston-family-in-need
To donate any goods or items to the Concepcion family, please email Julie Hallums to coordinate: [email protected]