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St. Albans Green charity drive raises $28K for victims of fire

SYCAMORE – More than $28,000 was raised for the victims of the July 27 St. Albans Green apartment fire before the doors of Blumen Gardens even opened for the Sycamore Strong – A Gathering of Hope fundraiser Wednesday evening.

More than 500 tickets were sold in advance, with all proceeds from ticket and beverage sales going to Family Service Agency, which will directly distribute the funds to the families affected by the fire. The fire destroyed Building A of the apartment complex, displacing about 120 residents.

“I would love to raise $40,000, and it just may happen after the proceeds from the 50/50 raffle, drink tickets and T-shirt and bracelet sales,” said Rosemarie Treml, executive director of the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce. “The people in Sycamore are passionate about their community. I’m not surprised at all, it’s just the way it is in Sycamore. I don’t know how to explain it, we just come together as a town, as a community.”

More than 10 area restaurants donated food for the charity event, which featured music by Back Country Roads, Truman’s Ridge, The Party Doctors, DJ Nobody and DJ Toxic.

Sycamore United Methodist Church’s Life Missions Group sold T-shirts and Greenfield Creative sold bracelets to raise money for the families.

During the event, two special donations were made. An anonymous couple gave $100 for their two T-shirts and a young boy stopped by to give all of the proceeds from his lemonade stand.

Bob Armstrong, a member of Sycamore United Methodist Church’s Life Missions Group, had the idea for creating and selling T-shirts as a fundraiser. The group sold out of their first order of 275 shirts in less than two days and had to order 1,000 more.

“I traveled all over the U.S. on mission trips, to Montana, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and New York, and others in the group have traveled internationally to help,” Armstrong said. “So why can’t we help here at home in Sycamore? That’s why we’re donating the proceeds from the shirt to the cause, and our group is donating $1,000 cash.”

Donations are being accepted until Friday and can be made online at or by bringing a check to the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce, 407 W. State St. #10 in Sycamore, made out to Family Service Agency, with “Sycamore Strong” written on the memo line.

Cortney Miller, singer for Back Country Roads, said she was inspired to act after seeing the smoke from the apartment fire while in downtown Sycamore for cruise night.

“When I heard of the devastation that happened, I wanted to do something to help,” Miller said. “I made a post on Facebook, and within minutes, hundreds of people commented saying they wanted to help, too. That’s when the idea for a concert fundraiser started.”

Miller told her band about the idea of a concert fundraiser, and bassist Dave Miller reached out to the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce.

“So many people wanted to help, and this event was a fun and easy way for people to come together for the community,” Cortney Miller said.

When Jesus Romero, the owner of Taxco Restaurant, heard about the fundraiser, he reached out to local restaurants and businesses. Romero helped coordinate the food donations from about 10 local restaurants.

“I have been so fortunate to live in such a philanthropic community, everyone cares and everyone wants to give back,” Romero said. “This was a way for me to give back and to help those in need. In my opinion, the best investment is in your community. When you give something from the heart, it really shows.”

Colleen Ludwig, Jill Henson and Dana Mallar, all teachers at Southeast Elementary School, which is next to St. Alban Green apartments and served as the Red Cross emergency shelter, attended Sycamore Strong to show their support to the community.

“We all have had quite a few children from the apartment complex in our classrooms,” Henson said. “Attending this event is the least we could do to help out in some way. It’s truly amazing how many people are willing to help.”

Bette Lindgren of Sycamore attended the fundraiser with her mother, Barb.

“I know people that have been affected by the fire, but even if I didn’t we’d still be here,” Lindgren said. “The community support is what makes this town great. I’m proud of our town and for the way that we all come together to help those in need.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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