MIAMI
11/16/2012 10:41 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

EASE Foundation Working To Provide Thanksgiving Meals Despite Fire (VIDEO)

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DAVIE -- Linda Owen may want to cry, but tears won't help feed the hundreds of hungry families needing her help this Thanksgiving -- if she can figure out who some of them are.

She turns to answer the phone, which has been ringing off the hook with people seeking help.

This time it's a mother of seven who can't afford a Thanksgiving feast or Christmas toys to put under the tree.

Owen, who runs a Davie charity called the EASE Foundation, takes her name and number. Then she tells her about the fire.

A stocked storeroom filled with food and toys went up in flames when an arsonist struck on Nov. 3. The blaze destroyed the town-owned building along with all the donations -- and the contact list of more than 200 families who were counting on the Thanksgiving food and toys to make it through the holidays this year.

Many of those families resemble that of Davie resident Lora Solomon, who saw her life tumble upside down after losing her job last year.

Her family of four was evicted in February, their belongings tossed onto the street. Her 12-year-old daughter moved in with a friend and Solomon's mother took in their 5-year-old nephew, whose parents are in prison.

"His birthday is Christmas Day," Solomon said. "Most of his toys got broken when we were forced out. I don't know what I would have done for Christmas."

Since the fire, another 140 families have signed up for help.

But Owen has no way of reaching the dozens of families who signed up before the fire to receive Thanksgiving meals.

"There's all these people who were signed up and I don't know who they are or how to contact them," Owen said. "Most of them don't know about the fire, so they don't know I don't have their names and phone numbers."

Those people will need to call Owen by Monday to sign up again for a Thanksgiving box and holiday toys.

"People need to get in touch with me if they signed up for help during the holidays," she said.

Owen fears many families will show up Tuesday at the building that served as homebase for the charity -- and see nothing but a charred building. The facility, at 4300 SW 57th Ave., was a total loss.

Police have arrested a youth they say started the fire, Capt. Dale Engle said. His name is not being released because of his age.

More than 3,000 families from throughout Broward County depend on the charity for food year-round. Food and toys for the holidays are provided only to Davie and Cooper City residents.

The fire forced the charity to scramble for a new base right before the holiday rush.

On Tuesday, the charity moved into Warehouse 1012 at the New Town Commerce Center at 3921 SW 47th Ave., in Davie. Local businessman Sam Jazayri is providing the space rent-free through Dec. 31.

"That's just to get us through Thanksgiving and Christmas," Owen said. "Then we will have to find another space."

After hearing about the fire, businesses and churches have donated cash, food and toys.

All the food donated by Owen's church, Liberty Life Center, was destroyed in the fire. So Pastor Dawn McCann persuaded the congregation to give again, collecting $5,500 for the charity.

"We can't let these families starve," McCann said. "We have to help. We are going to do our part."

The charity needs pasta, rice, yams, stuffing, cranberry sauce, desserts, vegetables, cereal, canned meals and gift certificates to help families buy turkeys.

How does Owen know she will have enough for everyone?

"Because I have to," she said as her phone rang again with another family in need.

To drop off nonperishable food and toys, go to the warehouse at 3921 SW 47th Ave., Unit 1012. Checks can be mailed to 6901 Orange Drive, Davie, FL 33314.

To sign up for help, residents can call the EASE Foundation at 954-797-1077.

sbryan@tribune.com or 954-356-4554 ___

(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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