Amidst the ashes of tragedy, five local families devastated by recent house fires have received a wave of support from the Long Island community.
More than $200,000 has been raised for the affected families, according to the fundraising platform GoFundMe.
Below is a closer look at each family’s fundraiser and the groundswell of generosity from neighbors that is making a difference in their lives.
Retired New York City correction officer Bobby McMahon tragically lost the Islip home he shares with his adult son and daughter and 6-year-old granddaughter to a devastating fire on Jan. 3.
His friend Richard Palmer, a retired warden with the city’s Department of Correction, organized a GoFundMe fundraiser on behalf of McMahon and his family. Palmer reported that McMahon, who lost his wife Marguerite to ovarian cancer in 2021, had just recently made the final mortgage payment on the home that was virtually destroyed.
McMahon’s daughter Madison, who works for East Islip School District, was inside the Mulberry Road house with her young daughter when they both began to smell smoke, Palmer wrote. McMahon at the time was out to dinner with his son, Dylan, an NYPD police officer.
“Bobby’s daughter grabbed her child and ran outside screaming,” Palmer related. “By the time Bobby and his son returned home, the house was nearly totally destroyed by the fire.
“They lost everything they owned — all of their clothes, furniture and appliances. The list is endless, but the sentimental value of Bobby’s wife’s pictures and personal items can never be replaced,” he added.
McMahon noted that the fundraiser is “an urgent call for assistance for one of our brothers who has always been there for us, as well as for the community.”
The family is staying in a hotel. Their immediate needs include paying for a fire clean-up company to evaluate if the house is repairable, and if so, the cost and timeframe, Palmer said. They will continue to need temporary housing, as well as clothing and financial assistance over the next few months, he said.
Palmer relayed in the GoFundMe post that McMahon’s finances were depleted during his wife’s illness and that there was an inadvertent lapse in insurance for the house insurance that occurred following the final payment on the mortgage.
So far, the GoFundMe effort has raised nearly $21,000 via 177 donations.
“Bobby never failed to answer the call for help when others were in need. He was a 9/11 First Responder whose tireless work was documented in a book about the terrorist attack and the people who stepped up to save lives,” McMahon detailed in his GoFundMe post. “Bobby was the lead officer for the New York City Department of Correction Harbor Unit during the 9/11 rescue mission from ground zero. The Correction Department Harbor Unit had 3 boats doing the rescue mission and took over 3,000 people to Brooklyn and Weehawken, N.J.”
The community has raised more than $93,000 for a Lindenhurst family that escaped with their lives from an early-morning house fire on Jan. 10, but were left with only “the pajamas they were wearing,” according to the GoFundMe effort established on the family’s behalf.
The Sarnicola family expressed their gratitude in a heartfelt message posted on the fundraising site on Tuesday.
“There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude for the outpouring of love, support, and generosity that has been shown to our family,” the note from the family reads. “We are very fortunate to have such amazing friends, family, and community behind us during this difficult time.
“Even though we lost our home and material possessions in the fire, we recognize that we could have lost so much more,” the letter continued.
The Sarnicolas wrote further that they are determined to rebuild, move forward and “put this terrible nightmare behind us.”
“With your love and support, we know that is really possible,” they said in the note. “From the bottom of our hearts, we are eternally grateful for each one of you!”
Real estate broker Kevin Kalyan, the owner of Goldstar Premier Properties, and his family lost their Seaford home and all of their belongings in a Dec. 20 fire, according to their friend Kaelin Bloom, who established a GoFundMe on their behalf.
“They currently have no home or clothes, as everything was destroyed in the fire,” Bloom wrote. “Your generous support can offer them a ray of hope during this trying time.”
Bloom noted that donations will go toward securing temporary shelter, replacing essential belongings and covering immediate living expenses.
“Let’s unite to assist this family in their first steps towards healing and restoration. Your compassion and generosity mean the world to them,” Bloom said.
As of Thursday evening, the fundraiser for the Kalyans had collected $28,641 through 301 donations.
Nearly 600 donors have contributed more than $47,000 to a GoFundMe effort established to help a Sayville family who lost their home and family pet to a fire while they were on vacation.
Nick Ventimiglia of Sayville established the GoFundMe on Jan. 8 for Jeanna Masone, who owns Botox Beauty Bar on Main Street in Sayville; her husband Glenn; and their three children.
“I ask if you can kindly contribute any amount you can to help Glenn and his family while they are displaced,” Ventimiglia posted. “Any amount is greatly appreciated.”
Mason is also receiving support from the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce.
“Please rally together for our fellow Main Street business owner and her family! The fire was devastating and they need everything!” the Sayville Chamber said in a Facebook post. “Glenn and Jeanna have three sons who can also use Target or Old Navy cards for clothing right away as well.”
Long Island’s Friedl family displaced by fire
A fundraiser started by a Terryville woman has raised more than $14,850 for the Friedl family, who on Jan. 12 was left displaced from their home due to a fire.
“The money will go to anything they need in this difficult time,” Debra Clifford of Terryville wrote.
In an update Jan. 15, Clifford wrote that the Friedl family was “truly overwhelmed with decisions and cannot even begin to express their gratefulness for having such support in their time of need.”
“They are currently working to find more permanent housing during the long road to recovery,” Clifford added. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping Deb and her family.”
Top photo: The Sarnicola Familyof Lindenhurst (GoFundMe)