Fordham’s CCEL Partners with New York Giants for Fire Relief


On Feb. 8, Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) partnered with players from the New York Giants to host a day of action to help with fire relief in the wake of a deadly apartment fire in Tremont. Students who participated in this day of action got the opportunity to meet New York Giants alumni Plaxico Burress, David Tyree, Shaun O’Hara and Kerry Wynn.

On Jan. 9, a tragic fire occurred in the Twin Parks North West apartment building in the Tremont section of the Bronx. The fire took place merely 20 minutes from the Rose Hill Campus and claimed 17 lives, in addition to leaving 63 people injured. The fire in the Twin Parks North West building is thought to have been caused by a defective space heater. The fire was the deadliest in New York City in this decade.

The objective of Fordham’s Center for Community Engaged Learning day of action is to help provide affected children with school supplies.
“One ongoing unmet need is educational supplies for impacted children: school supplies, backpacks, tablets and laptops, as well as games, toys, mindfulness and stress management activities.”In addition, impacted families are in need of tutors and mentors for impacted children, many of whom are experiencing the ongoing effects of the traumatic event,” said the CCEL in an email sent to the Fordham community on Feb. 4.

According to Julie Gafney, executive director of CCEL, Fordham has worked closely with the New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS) and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) to organize fire relief. Those organizations are in constant communication with BronxWorks, which directly handles the casework for affected families.

CCEL held donation events on campus the week of Jan. 31- Feb. 4 to garner school supplies for this project. According to Gafney, CCEL has numerous community partners to help acquire supplies for the affected families.

“Our partners at AT&T have provided discounted tablets toward the effort, and partners at the Bronx Zoo, the Botanical Gardens and Chocolate Cortez are providing additional items to distribute to the impacted children. We are working to be as inclusive as possible in our distribution efforts, since impacted families include both leaseholders as well as other families and individuals living with friends and relatives in the apartments,” said Gafney.

Students involved in the day of action will help fill backpacks with supplies for children affected by the fire. After the service, those students will get the opportunity to participate in a meet-and-greet with The New York Giants alumni.

On the afternoon of Feb. 8, select students will join The New York Giants alumni at Monroe College, which will serve as a distribution site to help them give the supplies to the community. Monroe College previously served as the Bronx Service Center for relief efforts. Plaxico Burress, David Tyree, Shaun O’Hara and Kerry Wynn are involved in ongoing work regarding spreading community and policy awareness about fire safety.
Fordham secured a partnership with The New York Giants through previous interactions. According to Gafney, Fordham is The New York Giants partner university.

“As part of that relationship, we have committed to partnering on annual community engagement projects like this one. We are really excited to have these special guests join us in our efforts and raise awareness of relief and recovery efforts and of ongoing work around fire and home safety in the Bronx. We believe that partnering with the Giants will help us highlight the importance of community-based work to the Fordham community,” said Gafney.

This is not the first fire relief effort that the university has participated in. After the fire occurred, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, sent an email to the community announcing the tragedy.

On Jan. 10, McShane sent another email advising Fordham’s community members who wanted to help in relief efforts to donate to Catholic Charities.
According to McShane’s Jan. 10 email, Catholic Charities “already has a sizeable footprint in the community, and a low overhead, [ensuring] that your aid goes to those in need. This is a method fully supported by Father Cecero and the Division of Mission Integration he leads.”

Besides relief efforts organized by the university administration, there have been student-led relief efforts. Fordham’s Satin Dolls and Ramblers, two of the university’s a cappella groups, partnered to raise money for fire relief through an Instagram campaign, which raised $920. All of the money generated through their fundraising efforts was donated to The Mayor’s Fund Bronx Fire Relief Fund. Through this fund, New York City distributed $2,250 to each household affected by the fire.

According to Gafney, the Fordham community has an obligation to help the local Bronx community, especially when it comes to necessary tragedy relief.

“It is Fordham’s responsibility to partner with its surrounding neighborhoods and communities to work toward solutions together, and this responsibility is particularly clear when any of our neighbors faces a tragic or traumatic event that requires immediate relief and response. We believe that community engagement must begin with solidarity, mutual respect, trust and asset-sharing,” said Gafney.

Gafney continued, “the Center for Community Engaged Learning was formed to serve as a connector or bridge between Fordham and community organizations, so we take it as our particular charge to support Fordham in the work of social responsibility and to engage every member of the Fordham community in that work.”