Community Rallies to Support Riverside Elementary School Teacher after Fire

Riverside Elementary School Science Teacher Mark Eastburn.

Beloved Riverside Elementary School science teacher Mark Eastburn’s home in Levittown, Pa. caught on fire early Friday afternoon while he was in Princeton teaching school.

Officials said the fire was started by an electrical problem behind a wall on the second floor of the home. The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental. The second floor of the home was badly damaged and the home is uninhabitable.

Eastburn, his wife and two children are staying in short-term housing until their home is rebuilt. Neighbors were able to save two dogs and two rabbits. Turtles, an important component of Eastburn’s teaching curriculum and life, were also saved, but badly injured. Most of the family’s other belongings were destroyed.

The Eastburn family must now navigate the challenges of dealing with insurance companies. It is unclear what the insurance company will cover, especially for the care of the Eastburn family’s pets, and sometimes such negotiations can take weeks or months.

In the meantime, people have been asking how to help. Eastburn, who is also a graduate student at Villanova University, set up a GoFundMe campaign on Saturday with a goal of raising $10,000.

“Many people have reached out to ask how they could help, or what they might donate, and we are grateful for all of the well-wishes, but since we’ve lost nearly all of our possessions, are currently in short-term housing, and our home won’t be rebuilt for months, we really have no idea what we’ll need first, or when we’ll need it,” Eastburn wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Launching this campaign seemed like the most effective way of giving all those who want to help an opportunity to cover whatever unanticipated needs might arise, and those funds we don’t use to rebuild our lives and our home will be donated to charities that help others (human and animal) in challenging times.”

Within about 24 hours the campaign had raised $19,000. As of 10:30 a.m. Monday, 147 people donated $20,465. Many of the donors are members of the Princeton Public Schools community.

“We just can’t express our gratitude enough for all of the support we’ve been shown,” Eastburn wrote Sunday in response to all the support. “Times are rough, but it’s a huge comfort to know that we are surrounded by such caring souls everywhere we turn. The bright side of humanity is really shining through.”