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Strangers pitch in for family that lost everything in fire

Evanstonians step forward to help family in need at the holidays.

Fire consuming the apartment at Judson Avenue and Dempster Street Wednesday morning. (EFD photo)

“My youngest son lost his favorite blankie.” That’s just one of many items Mayra Jackson, her husband Latwian, and their two sons lost in an apartment fire at Dempster and Judson Wednesday morning.

In fact, while they escaped unhurt from the garden level unit, the Jackson family lost basically all of their possessions. “It happened so quickly,” Mayra Jackson says. The Jacksons, including sons Jordan, age 9, and Nicholas, age 4, are now staying with Mayra’s sister while trying to figure out what to do next.

Strangers are helping out, dropping off clothing, diapers and other household items at Gamestersbay, a video gaming store oat 1808 Dempster St., where donations for the Jacksons are being stored.

Another stranger, Jill Miller, was on her way to work around 7:15 Thursday when she “saw the flames coming out a few blocks down.”

Miller drove towards the fire, and saw the Jackson family “still in their pj’s. The boys were screaming,” she says. “It was horrifying to watch them lose their home.”

So Miller took the family to her home, providing a warm place to stay until relatives arrived.

Miller had particularly strong praise for an Evanston police officer who responded to the fire. Miller says the officer came back with “bags of toys” for the children.

“It’s been making me think over the past 24 hours about those calls to defund the police,” Miller said. “That officer was somebody’s hero and guardian angel.”

Mayra Jackson is an artist, who “lost everything I worked for” in the fire. Latwian Jackson works at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Mayra Jackson says the family did not have renters insurance.

Mayra’s sister Ivette Camarano says there are a couple of temporary housing options which have been offered, again, by strangers. Ivette says a couple of social media sites have been established for physical and financial donations.

The Evanston Fire Department says the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Miller, who could have kept driving but chose not to, says she’s amazed at all the donations. “I’m blown away by the open arms of Evanston,” she says.

And Miller has picked up something herself for the family, replacement “blankies” for the little boy.

“I think God put me in the right place at the right time,” she says.

Jeff Hirsh

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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