Friday, August 31, 2001

Christian Le grabbed a toy yesterday in an Aliamanu
donation clearinghouse. The Army plans to hold a
lottery today to distribute furniture to families who
lost their homes in an Aug. 19 fire.

After the fire

Families overwhelmed by support
after they lost everything
in a military housing fire

By Gregg K. Kakesako

onica Dominski has simply been overwhelmed.

The Dominskis, who have been in the islands only since the beginning of the year, lost everything they had in a pre-dawn fire that swept through a three-story building in Aliamanu Military Housing Aug. 19, displacing 12 families.

The Army was expected to release its findings today on the official cause of the fire at 1219 Milo Pl. Last week, federal fire investigators said the cause was linked to a power strip behind a computer desk in Unit G on the second floor.

Within hours of the fire, Sgt. Dennis Dominski, a member of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry, and his family were helped by a dozen or so agencies that pulled together to support the displaced Army and Navy families. The families were given temporary shelter, food vouchers, counseling and now have access to donated clothing and furniture.

Yesterday, Dennis and Monica Dominski and their 18-month-old daughter were at a four-bedroom Aliamanu townhouse that had been converted into a makeshift clearinghouse for the bundles of children's and adult clothing, toys and household items that have been donated by military and civilians learning of the families' plight.

Mary Graben sorts through children's clothing
at an Aliamanu townhouse converted into
a clearinghouse for donations.

There was a bedroom set aside for baby clothing, another for adult and two others for girls' and boys' clothes. The downstairs living room had been converted into a toy store with scooters, dolls, books and other items.

The kitchen was filled with every conceivable item any cook could use.

"We're just overwhelmed that everyone helped so fast," Dennis Dominski said. It's been nearly a week since the tragic accident, but Monica Dominski still breaks down when talking about the support her family has received.

"The whole incident was traumatic," she said, fighting back tears, "but the incident really showed me that the human spirit is alive and well in the military and civilian communities in Hawaii.

"I didn't have time to grieve because everyone brought such a positive attitude. ... I hope no one ever has to go through anything like this that is so traumatic, but in this case the amount of trauma was decreased with everyone's help and love."

To further help the families, the Army was to hold a lottery this morning at Fort Shafter to pass out large furniture items such as beds, sofas, dressers, a 27-inch television, computer, stereo and futons.

Tami Callahan, who heads the group of volunteers helping the displaced families, said eight families have been given new homes either at Fort Shafter or in Aliamanu crater. Two other families will be leaving the islands, and the remaining two are Navy families who were given quarters on a Navy base.

Eight volunteers spent more than 350 hours, working six to 12 hours a day, sorting the clothing, consoling the families and offering other means of support, she said.

"Generally, everything donated -- from clothing to furniture items -- has been in really good condition," Callahan said. "We received items from all over the island, from civilians and military members, and I still have a list of furniture that hasn't been picked up."

Both Callahan, whose husband has been in the Army for 18 years, and Jean Weaver, an Army wife for the past 30 years, are impressed by the support that has been offered the displaced families.

Both women serve as "mayors" for various military housing areas. Their job is to help the residents with problems.

But Weaver said during her three decades in the Army, she has never seen "such dramatic support."

"The donations were overwhelming," she said.

By Tuesday, donations of canned food items, clothing, shoes, toys, kitchen utensils and other household goods could fill more than two semitrailers.

Callahan said monetary donations are still being accepted at any First Hawaiian Bank branch. Checks should be made out to Hawaii Army Mayors-Ft. Shafter.

Monica Dominski wonders if the events that followed the fire might have left an impression on her 18-month-old daughter. Ironically, it was the baby girl who woke the family from their deep sleep around 4:30 that morning.

"The trauma of that night," Monica Dominski said as she was hugged and comforted by Callahan and Weaver yesterday, "was decreased so much with everyone's love."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin