Community rallies for Avondale fire victims

 Avondale Estates residents were awakened by the smell of smoke and helicopter choppers above.

 Around 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, a fire spread at the Avondale Forest Apartments on Piney Tree Circle. According to DeKalb County Fire and Rescue officials, approximately 50 people were displaced by the fire.

 Of the 50 people displaced, at least 12 were students of Avondale Elementary, according to Avondale Elementary Principal Dontae Andrews.  

fire picture

 Since the fire, Avondale community members and school leaders have worked together to collect school uniforms, shoes, coats, socks, underwear, gift cards and monetary donations.

 “We have tried to come together and do the best we can for these families,” said Patti Ghezzi, head of the Friends of Avondale Elementary School.

 Ghezzi is collecting items for the affected students at her home at 3140 Wynn Drive in Avondale Estates.

 “I know a lot of the students live in that complex,” Ghezzi said. “I think seven families were affected and some of them didn’t even have time to grab their clothes or phones or anything.”

 Ghezzi said the Avondale Elementary School Education Foundation has done an outstanding job of identifying and attempting to help the students in need.

 A gofundme account was set up by Ghezzi on behalf of the families. As of Jan. 5, the account,, has raised more than $9,000.


 “Were it not for the school or the [Avondale Elementary School Education] foundation we wouldn’t have been able to help these families,” Ghezzi said. “I’m grateful that we have this school and that they’re so willing to work with us. The families around here are thrilled that we can help and give money and items directly to those in need.”

 Items for the families can also be dropped off at Avondale Elementary School on 8 Lakeshore Drive. Funds from the gofundme page will go directly to the families impacted by the fire, according to Avondale Estates officials. The school’s administration team and school counselor Sherita Ross will determine how to use the funds to best meet the student’s needs.

 “The kids of Avondale Elementary are kind of our sister school because they’re in the same neighborhood,” said Avondale Estates resident and Museum School of Avondale Estates teacher Robin Hollis. “I think we take care of each other. This is a real important time to come together. There’s a lot of ways we could separate, but it’s more important to come together and help each other.”

 During the fire, MARTA assisted the DeKalb County Fire Department by helping transport families to safety.

 MARTA staged two buses in a safe location within the apartment complex so families displaced by the fire could stay warm, according to officials. The families were moved from the buses to a leasing office on the property.

 “The DeKalb County fire chief called us [Jan. 3] to help provide a safe, warm place for residents while firefighters worked to extinguish the fire, said MARTA Deputy Police Chief Joseph Dorsey. “MARTA’s bus operations center moved swiftly to provide the buses. MARTA is always ready and willing to help our fellow first responders and the communities we serve.”

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