Two weeks after a and displaced 17 residents, hundreds of generous Hobokenites raised more than $16,000 during a benefit party Friday night at Room 84. Guests donated at the door and bid on dozens of auction items inside.
Rory Chadwick, owner of clothing consignment store , organized the benefit, similar to the one he put together in December for the victims of a .
“At one point in my life I had nothing," Chadwick said, "so to see people in a similar situation I felt a need to do something so that they don't suffer."
Several volunteers helped organize. Chadwick also coordinated with Joe Branco, who again offered his nightclub as a venue and gave a free drink to every guest who donated at the door.
Branco said he has known one of the displaced residents, Tiffany Shenman, for 12 years. Shenman, a teacher and realtor, also runs the . She owned a fourth-floor apartment with her boyfriend Fred Volze.
“As soon as I heard of the fire I automatically knew that Tiffany lived there,” Branco said. “It's a tribute to have an event here for someone like her who exemplifies what it means to be a Hobokenite.”
Several of the displaced residents attended the benefit party, including Stacey Molski and Caroline Madrak, who rented an apartment together on the third floor.
“There aren't even words to say thank you,” Molski said. “We never expected this kind of reaction from strangers.”
“I've been telling people that this really shows what Hoboken is as a community,” Madrak said.
Shenman agreed. “We always loved Hoboken," she said, "and now we know that Hoboken loves us back."
The Rotary club of Hoboken assumed control of the collection effort using its official and regulated charitable status.
Branco, who is also a Rotarian, said that the club is forming a rapid response committee to deal with future disasters. “If there's ever another fire in town," Branco said, "we jump in."
Mayor Dawn Zimmer, also in attendance on Friday night, praised the volunteers who organized the benefit and the residents who donated.
Guests to the benefit bid on several silent and live auction items, many of which were donated by local businesses such as , and .
Among the live auction items, dinner for four at the with Big Brother contestant and Hoboken resident Adam Poch sold for $225; a Rutgers football game package including luxury seating for four sold for $600; dinner with Real Housewives of New Jersey cast members Albie Manzo, Chris Manzo and Greg Bennett sold for $300; an original painting of 300 Washington Street created by artist Ricardo Roig sold for $600; and tickets to see Bruce Springsteen sold for $1000.
Chadwick said that several stores will keep cash donation jars on their counters for another week, which the Rotary will then collect. Chadwick said the next step in the aid effort is to organize a furniture drive for the displaced residents once they settle into new homes.