Fundraising efforts collect nearly $20,000

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As city fire investigators continue to determine the cause of a Dec. 9 fire that killed five children on Parkcliffe Avenue, the Mahoning Valley swells with support for the grieving family.

Penny Wells, director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, said fundraising efforts have so far collected nearly $10,000 to cover funeral arrangements for the five children: Aleysha Rosario, 9; Charles Gunn, 3; Ly’Asia Gunn, 2; and twins Brianna Negron and Arianna Negron, both 1.

Funeral arrangements had not been set as of Thursday, Wells said.

As of Friday evening, donors had given another almost $10,000 to the family’s $20,000 GoFundMe goal.

And, Wells said she expects much more support for the family during a benefit pasta dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Flambeau’s Caribbean Takeout, 2308 Market St. Dinners, including spaghetti and meatballs with cheese and salad, are $8 each. The event includes a gift basket raffle, she said. Donations can also be made directly to the family during the dinner.

Local behavioral health agency The Red Zone partnered with Gia Russa Italian Foods to donate 1,000 meals to be served during the Tuesday fundraiser.

“It’s a devastating tragedy. As a parent, I cannot fathom the depth of pain that mother, America Negron Acevedo, must feel,” Red Zone founder Maurice Clarett said in a release. “My heart goes out to her and her family, and I want her to know people really do care.”

The Negron and Gunn family issued a statement Thursday thanking the community for its efforts.

“We have never seen a community come together, showing so much love, comfort and support as you have. We cannot thank you enough,” it reads.

Wells said she has been coordinating food deliveries for the family, but she said they’re also “in need of our prayers.”

A candlelight vigil for Acevedo’s children is set for 6 p.m. today in the rear parking lot of Christ Centered Church, 3300 Hudson Ave. It’s a time for the family and the Youngstown community to express love for the five children — and Austintown artist Ron Moore Jr. created a permanent symbol of that.

Moore said he plans to gift a charcoal and chalk portrait he drew of the five children surrounding their mother to Acevedo before today’s vigil. Moore, who has children and grandchildren of his own, said the tragedy struck close to home.

“I thought if she has any photographs of the children, they probably burned up in the fire,” he said.

“The way I created it is to exuberate love — love the children have for their mother and love that we have for them,” Moore said. “When she gets the portrait [today] I wanted her to feel she is loved by people — not just her family members, but loved by others.”

Moore also plans to donate a painting to be auctioned during the Tuesday fundraiser.

“I hope it encourages other people to reach out and give whatever they can,” he said. “Everybody can do something. It doesn’t matter if it’s just sending the mother a letter, a card. ... I just feel bad. This tragedy could be any one of us.”

A spokesperson for the state Fire Marshal’s Office said Friday investigators have finished examining samples from the home at 434 Parkcliffe Ave. which the city fire department sent to the state lab for analysis. Results were mailed to Youngstown Fire Capt. Kurt Wright on Thursday, the spokesperson said.

Investigators have said they believe the fire was accidental.

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