Princeton area community rallies to help Griggs Farm fire victims

Volunteers sort donations for the victims of the Griggs Farm fire. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

By Monday morning, bags of clothes, bedding, and supplies were piled up more than seven-feet high in a room at the church. Volunteers spent the day sorting, bagging and boxing them, then began preparing them for delivery to the victims of the fire.

Dozens of bags of clothes and other items were collected for the victims of the Griggs Farm fire in just a few days. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

Trinity Church in downtown Princeton has become the hub of a massive operation to collect items for the residents who were displaced by a fire last week at the Griggs Farm housing development. Smoke and water damage destroyed many of the belongings of the 34 residents who were displaced, including four families with school-age children ranging from age 4 to 18.

The cause of the fire that took one life is still under investigation. Less than 24 hours after the fire, residents and community groups sprang into action to aid the victims, and Trinity Church became the hub for the efforts.

Van Davis, a lay leader at the church, knew just who to call when he surveyed all the donations that poured in over the holiday weekend. The church is famous for its annual rummage sale, which is run like a small military operation. Davis called on rummage sale volunteers to get the job done, and they didn’t disappoint.

By Monday afternoon, giant black garbage bags were filled and ready to be delivered, each one labeled: women’s coats, men’s coats, children’s clothes, toiletries, bedding, and so on. Princeton Community Housing, the nonprofit organization that manages the affordable rental units at Griggs Farm, will distribute the items to the residents, who are currently staying at an extended stay hotel or with friends and family.

Other organizations, clubs, and houses of worship have also organized their own donation and fundraising drives. Donations from other locations like the Griggs Farm Club House are also being sorted at Trinity.

Police, firefighters and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad hosted a “Fill the Truck” event Monday afternoon to collect food, toiletries and other items for the residents. Two trucks were filled at the event.

A GoFundMe campaign organized by Send Hunger Packing has raised more than $24,000 to aid the victims. That money will be transferred to Princeton Community Housing within the next few days and then distributed to the victims. People can also donate gift cards to the organization that will be distributed to residents to buy food or other items they might need.

Bags of donated clothes line the hall of Trinity Church as volunteers begin preparing them for pick up. Photo: Krystal Knapp.

Princeton Community Housing Executive Director Edward Truscelli said his organization is also working to raise money to offset the costs of housing those displaced by the fire, and has set up a fund to help with housing costs. Not everyone displaced by the fire had renter’s insurance. Princeton Community Housing is committed to seeing that everyone has a place to stay. The reconstruction of the Griggs Farm complex could take several months.

“We are going to need to work with the community to find people options for long-term housing and make sure people have other options available to them in the community,” Truscelli said. “We are working with organizations to try to facilitate that.”

The community’s response to the tragedy has been amazing, Truscelli added, thanking everyone again for their help.

“The scope of the generosity is incredible,” he said. “All the support is helping folks to move forward despite such a difficult situation.”

Bags ready to be delivered to displaced residents. Photo: Krystal Knapp.