Svia Bension, Zushie Litkowski and Efraim Stefansky didn’t think their efforts to help families in need would go viral.
"People needed help, we didn’t really think twice. We were the first ones to establish a fund and I think that we just knew how to react. That’s what helped our success," said Svia.
Last Thursday at around 1:30 in the morning, the group heard the news about the Champlain building collapse. By 3 a.m., they launched a GoFundMe page, setting a goal of $5,000.
As of Friday morning, the team has raised $1.4 million.
"We were all shaken by it. At like 1:30 in the morning when I passed by, we were like we have to do something. Since we are not EMT's so we said the only thing we could do right now and what we think people would need in the future is money," said Efraim.
Since then, the fundraising campaign has been endorsed by The Shul and is now hosted by the Chesed Fund. It’s one of the four support efforts with approval from Miami-Dade County.
For Zushie, it hit close to home. He had a cousin living in the building who escaped.
"All three of us were there for 24/6. We didn’t leave. We took different shifts [and] went to different synagogues, churches, community centers. We didn’t care who, when, where or why. It’s family and when family is stuck you just help," said Zushie.
The group said they’ve been using their own money to advertise and get the word out.
"I sit on my phone emailing, texting, WhatsApping, LinkedIn, any type of social media. Our motto is if you can send this to five people, that’s all we care about," he said.
The group said they’re establishing a board to help with the distribution of money to the families affected by the disaster. They also said they would not take any pay for organizing the campaign.
For more information or to donate, visit miamitragedyfund.com