Help arrives for victims of Vallejo fire

Help is arriving for victims of Sunday's two-alarm motel fire in Vallejo, in particular several families who were burned out of their long-term units.

"We brought some pajamas and some blankets for your twins," exclaimed volunteer Sara Gallagher, at the doorstep of Keysha Clark Jones, who has moved into an undamaged room at the Travel Inn, with her husband and four children.

They lost almost everything they owned, in the room they had lived in for two years.

"I'm thankful we all made it all out, and we're all safe," Clark Jones told KTVU, "but there are so many things you don't pay attention to when you have them, a comb, a toothbrush, simple stuff."

The couple was handed backpacks, blankets and clothing - plus non-perishable food that had been collected. "When people give to you, just because, it feels good," added Clark Jones. "Appreciate it, it's a blessing." The fire burned fast, destroyed sixteen units in one wing, and escaping residents were able to grab very little.

Monday evening, Gallagher and other volunteers were greeted with warm hugs.

They are familiar to residents, due to the mentoring work they done with children in the complex for almost a year. "We came one day last summer and played with the kids," explained Gallagher, "and it became something we did every Saturday, because they need it, and they deserve it. We love them. It's totally worth it, use coming here and spending the time." Added her volunteer partner Jeff Foster: "We are just trying to help them develop an awareness of the world beyond here, and we get as much out of it as they do. It feels as good for us as it feels for everybody else."

The Travel Inn is a long-term bridge for low-income families who are often transitioning from homelessness and working toward something more permanent. "Two and a half years ago, he got hurt, and we lost our place," fire victim Jamie McCluskey told KTVU, alongside her husband Mark LaMantia, who works as a plumber.

They have an 11 year old daughter who participates in the mentorship program.

"Living here, on what I make, we are able to save money toward something better," offered LaMantia," and I hope within a year, we can move into a house." 

As for the donations of food, clothing, and supplies arriving at their door? "This is totally unexpected, and we are so happy and thankful," enthused LaMantia, "it has made a horrible experience, a memorable one."

The Red Cross has provided hotel vouchers, and several local businesses are pitching in.

A-1 Heating and Air in Vallejo is accepting donations of clothing and miscellaneous home goods for fire victims. 

On Wednesday evening, Chick-fil-A in Vallejo will donate 20% of sales between 5-8 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Grassroots Mentoring Program will continue to fill in the gaps, with special attention to the 40 children who call the Travel Inn home.

Donations are welcome to help cover expenses: "Saturdays at the Travel Inn by Sara Gallagher" on the Gofundme website.

Gallagher and Foster both grew up in Solano County, and began their grassroots effort to give back to their community.