Update, 10:15 a.m. 6/18: The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center has set up a relief fund for the students and families affected by the balcony collapse. At the time of the update, the they had raised $65,805 to help the immediate needs of the families and students in Berkeley. Click here to donate.
Original story: A day after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, killing six students and injuring seven others, both the Irish and the Berkeley communities are rallying to support the families and friends of those who died.
The initiatives range from those being organized by government bodies to others orchestrated by local businesses.
Al Lasher’s Electronics in Berkeley is taking donations for the Irish exchange students and their families, said Melissa Lasher in an email to Berkeleyside. Lasher’s family is a part of the local Irish community, and Lasher plays Gaelic football with the local team, Clan na Gael.
“Every year my team helps and plays with J-1ers [exchange students] over the summer,” she wrote, referring to the J-1 visas held by many of the Irish students involved in the accident. “This tragedy hits very close to home for us and we wanted to give the Berkeley community a safe place were they can donate money and be assured it gets to the right people.”
All donations given to the Al Lasher fund will be passed on to the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco, a non-profit that helps Irish immigrants assimilate to life in the Bay Area, Lasher said. They are also taking any cards and letters “for those who cannot give monetarily and do not want to leave them at the memorial,” she added.
Donations are being taken at the store, at 1734 University Ave., or online through a gofundme campaign.
Charles Flanagan, the Irish minister for foreign affairs and trade, released a statement Wednesday morning saying the consulate is working with Berkeley authorities to set up an “incident centre” in Berkeley.
“Grief counsellors will be on site and people will also have facilities to make phone calls home,” Flanagan wrote. For families with concerns about loved ones, he encouraged them to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Consular Response Team.
The Irish Consulate to the Western United States tweeted the location of a Berkeley counseling and drop-in center for J-1 students to seek support and advice. The center, on the second floor of the Geneva Building, 2407 Dana St. (at Haste), Room G202, will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the rest of the week to help those who have been affected by the tragedy.
The Irish Immigrant Pastoral Center is working with the Irish Consulate in Washington, D.C., to coordinate donations for the families and friends of the victims. Berkeleyside reached out to the center but had not received details of its plans at the time of publication. This article will be updated when more information is available.
The Diocese of Oakland is holding a memorial mass Wednesday, June 17, at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, at 2121 Harrison St. in Oakland. Bishop Michael Barber will lead the service, with Friar Aiden McAleenan acting as the homilist.
“God wraps his arms together around us when we come together in faith and as family and community,” McAleenan said in a prepared statement. “We will do so this evening.”
How to help
- Call the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center at 415-752-6006 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate to the IIRC through Al Lasher’s Electronics online or in person (1734 University Ave.).
- Visit the website of the Irish Consulate in San Francisco to find out more.
- A memorial mass will be held June 17 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the Light (2121 Harrison St. in Oakland).
- If you know of other support initiatives, please share them in the Comments.
Eden Teller, a junior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, is a Berkeleyside summer intern. She is majoring in media and cultural studies and minoring in geology.
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