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Volunteers Pitch in to Help Bartlett Ave. Fire Victims
By Joe Durwin, Special to iBerkshires
09:00AM / Monday, January 30, 2012
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The fire at the Elmwood Court mansion displaced more 40 tenants last May.
Update Feb. 2: Some $377 was raised at the new benefit and was deposited into a new fund at Pittsfield Coop. Word has been circulated around that others can make contributions to this if they wish. A list of tenants was obtained and provided to them for eventual division of the proceeds. Tenants should be aware this will not amount to a very large amount per apartment; also, Pittsfield Coop is merely the holder of this fund and cannot answer any other questions about this situation. — Joe Durwin

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Numerous individuals from around the community have pooled their efforts and talents to help victims of a devastating fire which displaced more than 40 people last May, at a benefit to be held at Chameleons nightclub Tuesday night.
 
This new benefit follows the revelation earlier this month that tenants of the historic Elmwood Court building never received any funds or donation items from an earlier fundraiser held at the nightclub soon after the fire. After more tenants came forward voicing concerns in the wake of this story, local music promoter Andy Poncherello, who frequently hosts events at Chameleons, spearheaded efforts to put together a second benefit.  
 
A plethora of entertainers have donated their time to perform Tuesday, including DJ Chuck Wright, comedians Carlos Garcia and Ralph Dafunnyman, and musical acts Stairwell Sea, Noumenon, Jess Hume, Dead Radio Rebels, and Suffer Die.
 
"This being such a small community, I feel that it's important that we all help out where we're most able," said Jon Hed of Noumenon. "I can't say I personally know any of the victims of last year's fire, but it shouldn't really matter. Next time it could be me, it could be you, it could be any of us, and I'd like to think the community can pull together to support victims of any tragedy like this."
 
Solo rocker Jess Hume echoed this desire to help out. "After being unable to make if to the first benefit, I kept up with the follow-up stories, and when I read about what happened to the donations, and what the tenants actually ended up getting, it broke my lil' punk rock heart. So when I was asked to play I said 'heck yes!' "
 
Another local samaritan, Sara Clement, has secured donated items for a Chinese raffle, including small items of art and prints from local artists Colleen Surprise Jones, Tracy Levesque, Katy Levesque, as well as an exclusive signed preview copy of local author Gabriel Squailia's new novel "Dead Boys."  A 50/50 raffle will also be held in conjunction, so attendees will have the opportunity to win a straight cash prize as well. 
 
A fund for the proceeds has been established at Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, and donations can also be made directly at any  Pittsfield  Co-op location for anyone who wishes to contribute but cannot attend the event.  An official list of tenants living at that address at the time of the fire has been obtained and provided for the administering of the funds raised.  
 
Lack of reliable information about who lived there was one reason cited by the nightclub owners as to why funds from the previous benefit did not reach the fire victims.  Richard Altman, owner of Cavalier Management, said he was not aware of the previous benefit, but was happy to supply a list of tenants, as he said he had when approached by the Red Cross just following the fire.
 
The event will run from 7 to 11:30 at Chameleons, located at 1350 East St. A suggested donation of $10 will be accepted at the door.
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