Mizpah Fundraiser

Organizers of a fundraiser for victims of the deadly Mizpah Hotel fire raised more than $50,000, but officials say more is needed.

The event was held Wednesday at the Grand Sierra Resort, where
donors dropped off cash, checks, clothing and furniture.

"We're absolutely stunned by the generosity of the people in the community," said Dali Wiederhoft, vice chairwoman of the ReStart board that sponsored the benefit with the American Red Cross. "I have never lived in a place where people were so generous."

Laura House of Reno dropped off a large black trash bag of clothing left over from a recent yard sale. "I just know it's the right thing to do," House said.

About $60,000 still is needed to help the victims who lost everything in the Halloween night arson that killed 12, injured dozens and left more than 80 people in need of shelter.

The Red Cross, which will split donations with ReStart, has helped the victims with temporary housing.

ReStart will help find permanent housing. Donations will be used to pay for credit history reports, rent deposits, first month's rents, furniture and more.

"This drive is a great thing," said Caroline Punches, executive director of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross. "We were pretty much depleted in our local emergency funds."

Reno firefighters stood out front the resort in the cold wind of the day collecting cash and checks in buckets.

"People have been very generous," Capt. Dale Kiriaze said. "We were expecting small donations of maybe a dollar or two. A lot of the donations have been $5, even 20."

Sierra Pacific Power Co. gave $15,000; Wells Fargo, $5,000; Western Nevada Supply, Reno Toyota, the Reno Gazette-Journal Foundation and Reno Fire, all $2,500; the Grand Sierra Resort, Charles Schwab Bank and Bank of America, all $1,000; Sparks Fire Department, $900; teenagers from the Children's Cabinet, $800; and the Regional Transportation Commission, $500, according to Wiederhoft.

Henry Kollinger of Saint Vincent's Thrift Shop filled a truck with furniture, clothing, kitchenware and food.

"I think it's tremendous," he said. "It's showing the community is thinking and out there to help and not thinking of themselves. One guy said he had been in a fire and he lost everything and knew what is was like, that it was devastating."

The back seat and trunk of Sparks resident Tina Manoukian's vehicle was full of clothes, books, pots, pans and candles.

"My four sons are firemen with the Reno Fire Department," she said. "They said they really needed stuff, and anything we could do help they would really appreciate."