Woman collects goods for fire victims. Now what?

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LEWISTON — Kasie Kolbe is baffled.

For more than a week, the local woman has been collecting furniture, clothes and other items to help families displaced in a Birch Street fire late last month.

But now, with enough stuff to outfit seven apartments, Kolbe has no idea how to get it to the victims. She’s had little luck through the American Red Cross, the local Fire Department and area businesses. Everything she has gathered for the two-dozen victims just sits there, waiting to be used.

There are seven kitchen tables, boxes full of clothes, appliances, food, toys and other items collected through swap and sell sites and through the generosity of some local merchants.

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“You name it, I’ve got it,” Kolbe said Friday. “We’ve got everything under the sun over here.”

By late Friday afternoon, she and some helpers had three minivans full of goods. The rest of it, she was storing on porches — or anywhere, really, that it would fit.

“My garage,” Kolbe said, “is packed.”

By the end of the day Friday, she had managed to track down five displaced families and get them some of the items. She worked around at least one attempted scam — people with no connection at all to the fire had tried to get their hands on some of the goods.

Kolbe was working with the manager of the apartment building that burned and exploring other avenues to make sure as many people as possible were getting what they need.

Kolbe said she has already spent roughly $100 on gas, making trips to towns such as Richmond and Bath to collect items from donors. And people do want to help, she said. By Friday, people and some businesses were still contacting her, trying to help as much as possible.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Kolbe said.

Part of the problem, she said, is that fire officials and relief organizations are not allowed to give out information about the victims who were burned out of their apartments at 101 Birch St.

It’s understandable, Kolbe said, but it doesn’t help at all. She’s asking that those in need contact her at 312-3669 in case she has something that they need. She wants to get it all into the right hands, she said. And the sooner the better.

“What am I going to do with all this stuff?” she asked.

Local and state fire officials, meanwhile, have been mum about the cause of the Sept. 23 blaze. Rumors that the fire was set persist in downtown Lewiston, but nearly two weeks after the fact, investigators have provided no further information.

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