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Huntley community rallies to help fire victims

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HUNTLEY – A simple Facebook message from a heartbroken friend of one of the tenants who lost almost everything three weeks ago in a deadly fire at Huntley’s Woodcreek Apartments has snowballed into a communitywide effort.

Penny Andersen, a Huntley resident, took to the popular social media website to ask her friends for donations – food, clothes, money – to help her longtime friend who had her personal possessions destroyed in a two-alarm blaze in a six-unit Woodcreek apartment building at 11700 Woodcreek Ave.

The fire killed Allen R. Jacobs, a 47-year-old Huntley man who was bound to a wheelchair and couldn’t escape the fire that originated in his first-floor unit.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, Andersen felt compelled to help the many displaced residents at Woodcreek, including her friend.

Andersen’s compassion was felt elsewhere, as her Facebook friends passed around the message. In three weeks, the local community from the Huntley Goodwill store to a Round Lake Beach group have donated household items, food, furniture and clothes.

More items and fundraisers for the Woodcreek fire victims are on the way.

“I wasn’t expecting anyone really to respond to it,” Andersen said. “I was totally blown away by the response and willingness of people. They don’t even know them, but they just want to help.”

As the Facebook message went from profile to profile, groups such as Take A Stand from Round Lake Beach helped raise $800 for the five families displaced in the fire. Andersen said the group also drove to Huntley to hand over donated household items, food and clothing.

Other community groups, such as the Fox River Rebekah Lodge in Huntley, gave Walmart gift cards and groceries to the five families. The Hoffman Estates’ Life Changers International Church also provided food from its food pantry, Andersen said.

Andersen also visited Sweet Repeats to help her longtime friend, who was granted a 60 percent discount on furniture from the Huntley thrift store that benefits the Pioneer Center for Human Services.

Andersen’s husband, Steinar Andersen, reached out to the Huntley Goodwill, which also provided the friend with free furniture, from an entertainment center to bunk beds and a couch.

“It is not a normal request,” said Jeff Aquino, the Huntley Goodwill store manager. “But we felt that with us being Goodwill and in the community, we had to do something.”

The Woodcreek Apartments management also relocated the displaced families into empty units throughout its Huntley complex, as Woodcreek’s insurance company, Cincinnati Insurance, continues to investigate the cause of the Feb. 3 fire.

Managers even opened a garage to allow anyone to drop off donated items for the victims, Penny Andersen said.

Separately from Andersen’s efforts, a fundraiser for the victims is planned for March 3 at Offsides Bar and Grill in Woodstock, 680 S. Eastwood Drive.

“It was amazing what people did,” Andersen said.

How to help

Any person interested in donating household items, food and clothes to the Woodcreek fire victims can call Penny Andersen at 847-293-6353.

People also can attend a fundraiser for the victims from 1 to 4 p.m. March 3 at Offsides Bar & Grill, 680 S. Eastwood Drive, Woodstock. The fundraiser will feature raffles and music. For information, contact Offsides at 815-334-8700.

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