Texas Couple Loses Everything in a Terrifying Fire

One minute you are sound asleep, and the next you hear a loud boom. You awake to the sounds of a stormy night and attribute the boom to a lightning strike or a loud clap of thunder. When you look outside and do not see anything concerning you try to go back to sleep. Moments later, you begin to hear the sound of smoke alarms going off down the hallway of your apartment building. In your grogginess, you tell yourself this is not unusual, they often go off when neighbors burn toast, and it was the wee hours of the morning, after all.  Soon, you hear smoke alarms coming from the other side of the building and are panicked by the real possibility that this is much more serious than a thunderstorm. You open the door to see what is going on and the stench of smoke confirms your worst fears. Your apartment building is on fire.

Burning apartment bulding. Photo credit AshtonThis terrifying scenario is was what Brandon Camfield and his girlfriend Callie Thompson, employees of Poolman outside of Dallas, TX awoke to in the early morning hours of August 30, 2020.

They quickly gathered what they could –wallet, keys, purse, phones and cat – and bolted down the stairs.  When they looked at the building, they could see a fire raging directly above their third floor apartment. Realizing that the smoke alarms in the lower floors may not have been triggered, the couple ran door to door, banging as hard and loudly as they could to waken their neighbors and help them safely escape the burning building.

The couple watched in disbelief as fire crews fought the growing blaze.

Dozens are displaced by the fire

Eighty-four of the 86 units were occupied at the time, and miraculously, all residents and pets were safely evacuated.

After the fire. Photo credit Matt McNew/WFAASoon, the American Red Cross arrived and teams of volunteers assisted residents with everything from temporary housing to clothing and food. Fortunately for Brandon and Callie, they had family nearby who offered them a place to stay.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though it is believed to have been started by a lightning strike to the rooftop directly above Brandon and Callie’s apartment. The weight of the water used to extinguish the fire caused the floor of their apartment to fall through to the leasing office on the first floor. Brandon and Callie lost everything except for the clothes on their backs. The material possessions can be replaced but sadly, many irreplaceable family mementos were also lost in the fire.

“Watching I knew it was going to be bad, and I assumed we would have water and smoke damage. I never expected to hear that all of our belongings fell through to the first floor,” said Brandon. “The building is considered structurally unsound so we have not been able to get in to see if anything is salvageable.”

The FirstService Relief Fund helps the couple get back on their feet

The couple applied for a grant from the FirstService Relief Fund under the natural disaster category and Emergency Assistance Foundation, the Relief Fund administrator, worked with them to ensure quick approval and payment of their grant.

“We are very glad we had secured renters insurance when we moved into our apartment. This, coupled with the grant we received from the FirstService Relief Fund, has been so helpful in getting us back on our feet,” said Brandon. “I’m not someone who ever wants to ask for help, so this has been very difficult for me. I am blown away by the kindness and generosity people have shown us, and appreciate all of my colleagues who have donated to the Relief Fund.”

Brandon and Callie have been staying with family since the fire and saving for a down payment on a home they can call their own.

Brandon and Callie’s story is proof that unforeseen disasters can happen to any of us, at any time. That’s why the FirstService Relief Fund exists, to help our people during their time of need. If you have suffered a personal financial hardship, or know a colleague who has, we encourage you to apply for a grant.

   

Paul Davis: Virtual 5K Benefiting the FirstService Relief Fund

The Paul Davis Run and Walk Club is excited to invite you to our first ever PD Fit virtual race on Saturday, May 2nd from 7am – 1pm Eastern. While we may each be running on our own, hopefully you will be reminded that we are a part of something bigger, and that we’re all in this together.  

The virtual 5k can be run in any location you choose. Whether you are in Florida, Ontario, Oregon, or anywhere in between, we’ll all be running together! We will be tracking everyone’s results through the Nike Run Club App and announcing the winners from each designated age group after the race.  

The $20 registration fee will cover the cost of your race day swag and finishers medal.  All remaining proceeds will go towards the FirstService Relief Fund. The FirstService Relief Fund was established and designed to provide financial assistance to our team members in times of financial hardship. The Fund allows our team members to give and to receive in times of need. 

We hope you will take this opportunity to get up and move, to raise money for the FirstService Relief Fund, and to have some FUN! We will all celebrate together with a Virtual Post Race event @ 1:30pm Eastern on race day. Please email kfreeland@pauldavis to register. 

When: Saturday, May 2nd, 2020 7:00am -1:00pm EDT 

Where: Your favorite stretch of 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles 

How: Nike Run Club App is the official live virtual race hosting platform for the PD Fit Virtual 5k and must be downloaded before race day. Links to download the App are available on the Registration site. 

Registration Fee :  Registration is $20 and covers the cost of race day swag, finishers medal and shipping (for remote employees). All additional proceeds benefit the FirstService Relief Fund

 Registration Closes on April 30, 2020 at 5:00 PM EDT.

Planned Companies: St. Patrick’s Day Benefit Poker Tournament to Benefit the FirstService Relief Fund

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Planned Companies will be hosting a “Luck of the Irish” poker tournament in our ORACLE training facility at 3:30PM.

All proceeds will go to the FirstService Relief Fund which provides grants to our people during times of personal financial crisis.

FirstService Relief Fund: Providing Critical Financial Support During Brain Cancer Treatment

After spending 15 years working as an interior designer in New York City, David Slivinski needed a change. Having recently lost his mother, he was ready for a fresh start in a new city. He chose Phoenix for its warm weather and active lifestyle and was thrilled to join California Closets as a design consultant, the perfect role for him given his interior design background and genuine desire to help others.

Barrow Neurological Institute

David has been receiving treatment by a team of world-class doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, AZ

In July he purchased a home, deepening his ties to his new community. When he chose his home, its proximity to the world-renowned Barrow Neurological Institute wasn’t a consideration. And he had no way of knowing how significant this location would soon become for him.

Milestone birthday celebration takes shocking turn

David turned 40 at the end of July and celebrated the milestone birthday during a trip to see friends in Seattle. He had just enjoyed a birthday dinner when suddenly he became violently ill and began having seizures.

Forty eight hours later he awoke in a hospital to stunning news – doctors suspected he had a brain tumor. A biopsy soon confirmed the diagnosis and his medical team began to discuss treatment options with him.

David’s tumor is called an Oligodendroglioma, and it occupies three sections of his brain. Due to its large size, surgery is not an option. Instead, doctors prescribed an aggressive course of radiation and chemotherapy in an effort to keep the tumor from growing.

David began his treatment at Barrow — less than a mile from his home. Because of his recent history of seizures, he is no longer able to drive so he often walks to the hospital for treatment – to the amazement of medical staff. David believes keeping fit and strong – physically and mentally – will be key to his ability to fight this disease. In addition to the radiation and chemotherapy treatments he’s receiving, David incorporates yoga, acupuncture and follows a nutrient-rich diet comprised of foods widely believed to fight cancer.

On the last day of radiation treatment, patients ring the bell three times

To commemorate their last day of radiation treatment, patients at Barrow ring the bell three times

He recently received some incredible news, the tumor had shrunk! This is a development even his doctors deemed highly unlikely. In fact, in their eyes, simply stopping the growth of the tumor would be a victory, so this discovery was something to celebrate.

No day but today

Throughout his journey, David has maintained a positive and spiritual outlook, “If we are going through something in life, it’s because we are strong enough to get through it. We become better people through the events that shape our lives.” His mantra is “No Day But Today,” which fans of the musical Rent will recognize, and which is a reminder that every day is a precious gift.

Doctors will continue to closely monitor his tumor, and David hopes to be cleared to begin driving again, so he can return to the job he loves so much.

FirstService Relief Fund helps our people when they need it most

David has shared his story with us in the hopes it will inspire colleagues to learn more about the FirstService Relief Fund. No one ever expects to face a catastrophic health issue, and certainly not at such a young age, but David’s story is a sobering reminder that unforeseen events can happen to any of us at any time. That’s why FirstService established the Relief Fund, to help our people when they need it most.

The grant David received from the Relief Fund was badly needed to help pay medical bills, and in his words, was necessary for survival.

“My cancer has been a blessing that has defined my life in a positive way. It has allowed me to see the depth of the human heart and the love people have even for complete strangers,” says David. “I am very, very grateful for the support of my colleagues at California Closets, and to all who have donated to the FirstService Relief Fund. Your support has made a huge difference for me, and I cannot thank you enough.”

To learn more about the FirstService Relief Fund, please visit firstservicerelief.com. 100% of money donated goes directly to help our people in need. We hope you consider setting up a recurring payroll donation. Even just $1 per pay period can make a difference.

Participants at the Brain Cancer Walk

Participants at the Brain Cancer 5K Walk

David’s colleagues in Phoenix are joining together for the Phoenix Brain Tumor Walk on December 7, 2019. If you are in the Phoenix area and are interested in joining the California Closets Phoenix team in this wonderful event, or if you would like to support this worthy cause, please click here.

Read about David’s inspirational journey on his blog, www.davidslivinski.com.

FirstService Residential: Casual Week for a Cause in Dania Beach

We’re going casual to support our associates who are facing personal financial hardships. All associates who sign up to donate $5 through payroll deductions (or who are already doing so) can enjoy a casual week.

All donations go to the FirstService Relief Fund to support associates through financial hardships. This can happen to anyone at any moment from accidents, illness, death in the family, and natural disasters. Read more about how the Relief Fund has helped associates.

Since January 2019, with the help of the current 682 payroll deduction participants, 15 grants with the average grant size of $2,760 have been awarded to FirstService Residential associates through the FirstService Relief Fund.

To learn how you can donate to the Relief Fund please visit  http://www.oursocialpurpose.com/relieffund/

FirstService Relief Fund: Helping a Family Recover from Losses Incurred in a Fire

What should have been an uneventful move from Dallas to Austin turned into a nightmare for  FirstService Residential IT Analyst Laura Lange when the truck hauling all of her family’s possessions went up in flames. Fortunately, Laura’s manager encouraged her to apply for assistance from the FirstService Relief Fund and she was awarded a grant.

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FirstService Relief Fund: A Broken Knee Becomes a Blessing in Disguise

Nancy DiTore, a Concierge with Planned Companies in New Jersey, took a misstep at work which resulted in a broken knee, painful surgery and a lengthy recovery. During her recovery, she got caught up on her routine medical appointments and was stunned to learn she had breast cancer.

Nancy shared her incredible story with us and describes how the FirstService Relief Fund was able to ease her financial worries during this difficult time.

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FirstService Relief Fund: Providing Support to a Family Following a Catastrophic Medical Event

When Shannon purchased a Floor Coverings International franchise in 2017, he and his family were excited about what the future held for them. Being an entrepreneur has many advantages, and having the opportunity to be part of FirstService Brands, with its track record of success and alignment to his personal values, appealed to him.

Little did he know that less than two years later, his life would be forever changed.

This past March, at just 47 years of age, and in good health, Shannon suffered a massive heart attack. His is what is known as a “widow maker” heart attack, and, as its name implies, they are often fatal.  With no known risk factors, his doctor chalked it up to bad luck. Shannon, however, sees it differently. With just a 5% chance of survival, and having been clinically dead before doctors brought him back to life, Shannon considers himself lucky to be alive.

His recovery forced him out of work for three months, during which time bills associated with his business and household expenses and medical treatments began to pile up. This created additional stress for him and his family during what was already an extremely difficult time.

Fortunately, Shannon applied for and received a grant through the FirstService Relief Fund. The funds he received bridged the gap during the time he was unable to work and allowed him to stay current on his day-to-day expenses.

Today, Shannon is feeling great. He has committed to taking better care of himself, making better food choices and exercising regularly. He’s grateful he was able to see his son graduate high school earlier this summer and dreams of the day he will walk his daughter down the aisle.

“I’m so appreciative of my colleagues who contributed to the Relief Fund and made my grant possible,” said Shannon. “I never imagined I’d be in a situation where I needed help, and feel very lucky to work for a company that cares so much about its people. If you are able to contribute to the Relief Fund, you are truly making a difference in someone’s life. If you have a need for support or know someone who does, please look into applying for a Relief Fund grant.”

We thank Shannon for sharing his story in the hopes it will inspire others to become involved in the FirstService Relief Fund. For more information please visit http://www.firstservicerelief.com.

 

FirstService Relief Fund: Helping an Employee Manage Funeral-related Expenses

Emmanuel N. is a team leader at Planned Companies in New Jersey and a recent FirstService Relief Fund grant recipient. He has agreed to share his story with us to help raise awareness of the FirstService Relief Fund so those in need will apply for grants and those who wish to donate will consider doing so.

Emmanuel emigrated to the United States from the Republic of Ghana, West Africa in 2008. As is tradition in Ghana, with the passing of his father, Emmanuel assumed role as head of his family’s household. With that comes the responsibility of funding a celebration of life ceremony on the one-year anniversary of his father’s death. Respecting cultural traditions is important to Emmanuel and his family; however he found himself facing a personal financial hardship.

Planning a Special Ceremony 5,000 Miles from Home

The ceremony – which brings together family, community members and town elders — honors his father and marks the end of the mourning period for his widow. The event includes music, dancing and the unveiling of his father’s inscribed tomb.

Coordinating the ceremony was a challenge for Emmanuel, not only because of the logistics involved with planning an event in a country 5,000 miles away, but also because of the costs associated with it. Unexpected funeral-related expenses can stretch working families’ budgets creating a personal financial hardship for many people.

Fortunately for Emmanuel, the FirstService Relief Fund is available to assist our people in times of personal financial hardship. Because his situation was considered a “Qualified Event” under the guidelines of the Fund, he was awarded a grant.

Emmanuel is grateful for the support he received from the FirstService Relief Fund. “Losing my father was a big blow for me and my family. It’s easy to let a hardship get you down, but I want people to know that there is help available, and even when things seem very bad, they will get better,” he said.

Emmanuel said everyone he spoke with at Employee Assistance Foundation (the Fund’s administrator) throughout the process of getting approved for the grant was extremely helpful and kind. When asked if he had a message for his FirstService colleagues who donated to the Fund, he had this to say, “God bless them for donating. Now it is my turn to contribute to the Fund so I can help others who face their own financial hardships.”

100% of Money Donated to the FirstService Relief Fund Goes to Help Our People in Need

We encourage everyone to donate what they can and to remember that every dollar donated makes a difference and no amount is too small. For many people, establishing recurring donations in small amounts, either through payroll deductions or debit or credit cards, can be easier to incorporate into their budgets than a one-time lump sum donation. Even just one dollar per pay period can have a huge impact when you consider the number of people – 33,000 and growing — in our organization.

If you are facing a personal financial hardship, please visit www.firstservicerelief.com and learn more about the FirstService Relief Fund.

Paul Davis: A Stomach Ache Requires Major Surgery and Lengthy Recovery

For Pam, a Paul Davis Restoration contents technician, a stomach ache turned out to be much more serious, requiring her to undergo surgery and a endure a lengthy recovery. Read more about her story and how she was helped thanks to her colleagues’ donations to the FirstService Relief Fund.