The fire broke out at No. 1 2095 County Line Road just before 6 AM, according to the Asbury Park Press, with firefighters from Jackson, Howell and Lakewood all responding to the blaze at the home of Minyan Shelanu’s girls program.
The residential building, one of four on the cul de sac property, was uninhabited when the fire broke out. A nearby preschool, law office and management office located approximately 100 feet from the Minyan Shelanu building were all unharmed.
The cause of the blaze remains undetermined at this time, with both the Ocean County Fire Marshall’s Office and the Jackson Police Department remaining on scene for several hours conducting their investigation.
Heshy Thumin, a volunteer with Minyan Shelanu, which has both a boys and a girls division and is the only girls’ drop in center in the Lakewood area, said that the organization provides crucial services to many in the Lakewood area.
“We all know about the drug epidemic in our community and unfortunately Lakewood wasn’t spared,” Thumin told VIN News. “This was really a place for any girl to come to give them warmth and to participate in programs.”
Known as Minyan Shelanu HQ, the building had been in use by the organization for approximately two years and served as a drop in center with nightly programming, meals, mentoring, counseling and social activities. Thumin said that the building was totally destroyed by the fire.
“It is traumatic for the girls,” said Thuman. “It was their place, they painted the walls. They are a family here and this was their home.”
The dozens of girls who spent time at the facility often referred to the building as “the chill.” A crowd funding campaign launched today to raise $150,000 to rebuild the facility included a statement from one of the girls who used the facility who said, “The chill house was a home to me, where I can feel safe and loved. The house has so many good memories filled with care and kindness. I’ll really miss it.”