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Fremont Fire Benefit Concert: folk singers, family, neighbors

By Athima Chansanchai · June 30th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Nectar was the site of a benefit concert Tuesday night for the family of the victims who died June 12 as a result of a fire no more than 5 minutes from the downtown Fremont venue.

At the door were posters from the Fremont Fire about the fire, the 4 children, their aunt, and their families, and the fund set up through Bank of America, Seattle Children’s Fire Fund. (Walk into any branch and make a donation to that fund.)

Fremont Fire posters

Allecia Clemons, who did not know her neighbors until the tragedy, felt compelled to organize this event as well as a potluck fundraiser 2 days after the accident. She doesn’t know how much money was raised, but she gave the jar directly to the family. She estimated it was several hundred dollars. Thousands more have come in through direct donations at the Fremont Fair (more than $1000) and the memorial funds, such as the “Waterways Employee Memorial Fund,” established by Waterways Cruises, the employer of the childrens’ mother Helen Gebregiorgis, the late Eyerusalem Gebregiorgis, and their father. The company seeded the fund with $5,000. Donate through any Chase Bank branch.

About 40 people, including Daniel Gebregiorgis, the brother and uncle to the victims, showed up to the event, which focused on folk singers organized by Allecia Clemons (pictured below), the next door neighbor of the family that perished in the blaze. The other acts on the bill included: Rose Laughlin (who grew up with Clemons in West Seattle), Ann Fiser, Michael Trew (who performed with Autumn Electric), Clallum Country and Allecia Clemons and the Sexy #’s.

Allecia Clemons

“Helen lost her belongings, but also her children. She can replace her belongings,” said Clemons, who knows what it’s like to lose everything (in the way of material possessions), having been the victim of such a fire when she was 19.

Suggested donations of $10 were taken at the door, where people could also buy $5 raffle tickets. The raffle prize was a donation from six-time Grammy winner John Legend, who provided 4 tickets & backstage passes to his concert at the Puyallup Fair in September.

The first few singers, with their melancholy and contemplative ballads, reflected the more somber mood of the events that brought everyone together last night.

Rose Laughlin Rose Laughlin

Ann Fiser
Ann Fiser

But Michael Trew and Autumn Electric picked up the pace, injecting an infectious, rollicking beat and energy that would fit in with any Seattle pop/indie bill.

Michael Trew & Autumn Electric

Joined by many friends, Daniel Gebregiorgis stayed mostly on the second floor of Nectar overlooking the first floor. Hipsters upstairs; a crunchier, older crowd downstairs; but all there to support the family. Many others would have made it, Clemons said, but the tragedy is still too fresh.

“I just got a phone call from a neighbor in the apartment complex. She can’t make it tonight. It’s too hard. Most of them are still traumatized,” said Clemons, who said the fire has brought them together. “The constant reminder of seeing that building is hard.”

The morning of the fire, Clemons and her neighbors ran to try to help, but once they got to the apartment, they ran into flames “as big as the door. There was no way to get out – or in.”

She hopes this will be the first of many fundraisers, with the ultimate goal for Clemons to raise enough money to buy a condo – in Fremont – for Helen Gebregiorgis.

Another concert fundraiser is scheduled at Nectar on July 13, this one in partnership with Kube 93.3 FM and local mainstream and hip hop artists.




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