MEDINA, Ohio -- After a deadly apartment fire left eight families homeless, the Medina community is stepping in to help.
The City of Medina said it was partnering with the United Church of Christ, Congregational of Medina to support about 18 people displaced by the fire.
Tax-deductible donations of clothing, gift cards and personal care items are being accepted at the church, which is also setting up a fund at First Merit/Huntington Bank for cash donations, according to a press release from the City of Medina.
"I'm alive," said Abby Mpofu, one of the victims. She said she woke up to an explosion just after 3 a.m., then rushed out of her first-floor apartment with only her cell phone and the clothes on her back.
"There was an explosion. I opened my front door, and it blew my bedroom door right open, so I called 911. I said, 'there's a bang; something happened. I don't know, and I'm scared."
Mpofu said she heard the screams of a trapped neighbor, but no one could get to him.
"One burnt in that building. And I heard him. I heard him tell me he was on fire," she said. She returned to the scene Thursday afternoon to try to retrieve any belongings she could, but she was told it was too dangerous to go inside.
"It's hard; it's hard. We have nothing. You see it. We have nothing. This is me," she said, asking for prayers for all the victims, particularly her neighbor who passed away.
**Watch her interview with Matt Wright in the video above**
The American Red Cross said it provided financial assistance and other immediate essentials for the victims.
"It's always devastating, especially if those families can't get back into their homes, can't get their medication, can't get the necessities of life, and that's what we're here to help with," said Jim McIntyre, with the Red Cross, adding that the organization depends on donations and volunteers.
Medina Village Apartments management said it was working to get the displaced into vacant, furnished apartments by Friday evening. A neighbor also inquired about hosting a fundraiser at a local bar.
"To see what happened this morning and the people band together, broke some people's hearts, it was very touching to see this," Terry Bilek, the complex maintenance manager, said.
Donations through the United Church of Christ, Congregational will be accepted at the church, located at 217 East Liberty Street in Medina, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. through February 24.
Thursday evening, the city also said St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Medina will be working with the Red Cross to assist any displaced families.
SVDP will accept financial contributions for distribution to these families in need. Checks should be made out to St. Vincent de Paul and mailed/dropped off c/o St. Francis Xavier Parish, 606 E. Washington St., Medina, OH, 44256.