Families see outpour of donations following destructive house fire in Islip Terrace

‘How could you not help?’


Islip community members are coming together to assist a group of families after a fire destroyed a multi-family home on Carleton Avenue in Islip Terrace last month.

According to Suffolk County police reports, officers responded to the house fire at 39 Carleton Avenue, Nov. 28 at 12:34 a.m. Two adult females were transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Resident Diane Manvanares, who lived in a section of the home with her two sisters, said the fire started in her sister’s room after a candle was left burning for too long. Some of her extended family was staying at the residence when the fire occurred.

All 17 residents from the eight apartment units safely evacuated the home, police reports said. Unfortunately, Manvanares said she lost her pet dog.

“We made it out, my family is safe,” Manvanares said. “There’s not much we can do – this is just part of God’s plan.”

While the lives of all involved residents were uprooted, they have found new places to live, Manvanres said. They’re all in communication with one another, mostly, though, their landlord.

Manvanares, who went back to work Monday, Nov. 30, currently lives in a Patchogue apartment with her three daughters: Nina, 12; Emi, 8; and 1-year-old baby Ela. She had moved into the Carleton Avenue home just over a year ago, when she was pregnant with Ela.

Luckily, Manvanares said, community members have been willing to help out, and contribute clothing, toys and more.

Donations have been a team effort, most of which have been provided by Helen Barba of Brentwood and Ilene Davidson of Islip.

Davidson, who serves as the co-director of the ministry at Fountainhead Congregation in East Northport, said she learned of the fire through a former resident of the multi-family home. The entire congregation got involved in the donation effort, she said.

After contacting two of the residents, Davidson turned to Facebook to outsource donations. That’s how her paths crossed with Barba, who was also searching social media for donations for the Carleton Avenue families.

Raised in Islip Terrace, Barba said she was eager to give back to her community this year.

Just a few weeks prior to the fire, Barba started collecting donation bags for those in need. After collecting over 60 bags, one of her relatives contacted her about the fire and asked her to help.

While helping the multiple families in the Carleton Avenue residence seemed overwhelming at first, Barba quickly took on the project.

The incident struck a cord with both Barba and Davidson: each of them were impacted by house fires in the past. For Barba, it was her old home a couple of years ago.

“This was about helping out during the holiday season; I had a house fire and lost everything, so I know what it’s like,” she said. “I just want to get these people back to the way they were, the best that we can as a community.”

In the spring of 2018, Davidson said her boyfriend’s house caught on fire. Although she wasn’t living in the home, she experienced a sense of “the emptiness and emotional trauma.”

“We’re supposed to bend over backwards and do everything and anything we can for the next generations coming up. That’s what I was always taught. And that’s the philosophy of our ministry: children should not go without,” Davidson said. “These people are in need – how could you not help?”

With the influx of people contacting her online, Davidson said, she’s found many people share that same philosophy: she’s received many donations that she’s dropped off to the family throughout the past week.

Manvanares said she’s grateful for the community of donations from the community. People interested in donating to the families can contact Illene Davidson on Facebook.


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