Victims of the June 30 fire at Vineyard Apartments in Ceres are slowly rebuilding their lives, thanks in part to generous donations made possible by the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children.
The agency on Fourth Street in downtown Ceres collected goods for residents displaced by the fire that destroyed two apartment buildings.
"It's amazing," said Jason Avila, who along with his wife Alicia, barely had enough time to get their daughter Roxanne out of their second-story unit. "It's definitely a Godsend. It's times like this when people show they really care. Everybody is chipping in."
The Avilas and Craigheads, Bobbie and Ashley, were among three families who received much-needed help from CPHC, between 2-5 p.m., last Thursday.
Clothing, toiletries, household items, home supplies and toys were donated.
CPHC also opened its doors, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Monday for families in need.
"We heard about it (the fire) the next day," said Jennifer Rangel, program coordinator for Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children (CPHC). "We decided to offer our space to the community to drop off the donations and invite all the families that were affected by the fire to select from the donations. We had a little bit of everything."
The first batch of donations was dropped off at the downtown Ceres center on Wednesday at 8 a.m.
CPHC provided new underwear, socks and pajamas.
"We put it on our Facebook page and it took off from there," Rangel said. "Everything else was donated by the community. It's amazing to see the community come together like this."
The Avilas and Craigheads, who shared a second-story unit, departed for temporary housing just after 4 p.m. on Thursday.
Their families filled two vehicles with an assortment of donated items.
Bobbie and his wife Ashley had two dogs perish in the fire.
"I'm not used to people being this nice to me," he said. "Usually, they're ***holes."
The fire, which displaced the residents of 12 units, broke out at 3:44 p.m. and spread quickly between one eight-unit building of the Richland Avenue complex south of Hatch Road and the neighboring four-unit building to the west.
Unable to use the front door of apartment #121 as an exit due to raging flames, the Avilas had no choice but to drop their daughter outside through a window to the arms of resident Clint Loveland.
Jason and Alicia jumped from the window too-a drop of about 10 feet-with no time to even put their shoes on or grab personal belongings like cell phones.
Roxanne turned 1 on Wednesday.
"It could have been way worse," Jason said. "No one got hurt luckily. God was there the whole time."
Departments from Turlock City, Hughson, Modesto and Stanislaus Consolidated responded to assist Ceres Fire in battling the fire.
A total of 38 personnel and nine engines were involved in the firefight.
Ceres Fire Deputy Chief Bryan Nicholes said the fire appeared to have started in an unauthorized storage area created in the breezeway underneath an outdoor staircase at the northern side of the center section of Building K.
"We're not on the lease so Red Cross can't help us," Jason said.
"We're here to be a resource for families, especially those in need," Rangel stated.
Courier Editor Jeff Benziger contributed to this report.