On January 9, 2022, a safety fire door malfunction in a South Bronx apartment building led to 17 deaths.
The building tenants, mainly undocumented immigrant families, requested better heating sources and preventatives for months but were deterred from taking legal action due to their immigration status.
After one family left an electronic heater on, their apartment caught on fire. Due to the poor quality of the safety doors, the fire spread rapidly to the floors above, leading to smoke damage on every level.
In response to the tragedy, our New York Ministry Center immediately dispensed grants to our partners to help survivors recover. Having grown up in the Bronx, a partnering Send Network pastor, Natalio Perez Jr., had a personal connection to this calamity and answered God’s call to help the neighborhood recuperate.
“Partnering with Send Relief allowed us to do more than we ever could have imagined,” Pastor Nat stated. “The humbling moment for me was showing up on-site and feeling the grief and uncertainty of the survivors. Staying present was heartbreaking, but it allowed us to get closer to the families and to let them know that we would return and continue a relationship with them—that has made all the difference.”
One family with a child with special needs was devastated to discover that their daughter’s bed, designed specifically to help with her mobility, had received damage beyond repair. Using a Send Relief grant, Pastor Nat purchased a brand-new bed for their daughter and all new mattresses for the remaining family members.
They were extremely grateful, and later in the year, at a Send Relief Backpack Event, the same family asked to volunteer with Perez’s church, Focus Fellowship, handing out pizza and water to help their neighbors as they had once received care.
Pastor Nat shared, “I want to say it was a coincidence, but nothing with God is ever coincidental—this felt ordained. As a lead pastor, you rarely get to sit back and enjoy the moment, but because we had enough volunteers for this event, I took a couple of minutes to soak it in. It was amazing to see God use someone like me to hold a ministry event and watch Him bless us with everything we needed to make it possible.”
The neighborhood still needs help. Known for its violence, drug addiction and broken homes, the South Bronx community has many landlords taking advantage of these circumstances to make more money off their vulnerable or undocumented tenants. In response, Pastor Nat made a request: “I am asking for churches to unite despite their different affiliations to help our brothers and sisters see compassion at work. If we team up, more opportunities to help the hurting will arise.”
If you would like to help more families in New York City recover from crises, visit our website to learn more or sign up for a ministry center trip today.
Published March 7, 2023