Dozens of businesses and individuals contributed donations for the “Gulfport Lights It Up” fundraiser event at Most Holy Name Church, who gave space behind the church to the cause.
“It was so overwhelming, the amount of donation items we got from local artists, restaurants, local retail stores. It was just amazing,” said Barbara Banno, who helped in organizing the event on Wednesday, May 18. “RW Caldwell: $500. Gulfport Merchants Association: $500,” Banno said, naming just a few. “It gives me goosebumps just talking about this.”
According to Banno, every dollar made during the event will go to the 58th Street Fire Disaster Fund, which was set up to help those affected by the April 21 fire at the shopping center on the corner of 15th Ave. S. and 58th Street, which included the Sunrise Laundromat and Fazio’s Pizza.
Banno, along with the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, also helped spearhead a week where local restaurants donated portions of their proceeds to help those who lost their businesses in the fire.
When all said and done the event, GoFundMe page, and other donations, the fundraiser was successful in bringing in nearly $10,000 Banno says that the money is not just for Fazio’s, but their employees, families, and other businesses that were affected.
“I couldn’t even fathom this,” Banno said. “We are ecstatic. More than thrilled.”
And the beneficiaries could not be more grateful.
“It was a good turnout,” Tony Alhaus, owner of Fazio’s Pizza, a Gulfport staple for 25 years.
Althaus said he had some good news recently: The general contractor will soon be making repairs to their damaged building and they will be staying in their well-known location.
“Things should be moving along pretty swiftly,” Althaus said, although he does not know when construction will be completed or when he can reopen.
But the pizzeria can’t open up soon enough for some. Marie Mullin says she needs her fix of weekly Fazio’s Pizza.
“I’m jonesing,” Mullin said. “I eat at Fazios once, sometimes twice, a week. Pizza or subs.”
The event was full of entertainment geared toward helping the victims of the fire. Live music was provided by Pete and Dean, DJ Daniel, and Hector throughout the evening while patrons ate food donated by Smokin’ J’s BBQ and bid on items at the silent auction. A 50/50 raffle was available for donations as well.
The GoFundMe page will continue to be active throughout the month at gofundme.com/58stfiredisaster