Spruce Hill: Neighbors in Little Osage Come Together for Disaster Relief

Sisters Sophia Sanzari (left), Kirby Palmer and Sadie Palmer received a donation outside of Clarkville restaurant.

Carlos Pérez Sámano wasn’t sure why his phone kept losing service on Sept. 19, but when he returned home from Center City and connected to the wifi, he was bombarded with text messages.

“Everyone was saying, ‘I’m OK. I’m OK. I’m OK,'” Pérez Sámano said. “And I was like, what happened?”

There had been a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Pérez Sámano’s hometown of Mexico City. Friends and family reached out to let him know they were safe, others needed help to find missing relatives.

Pérez Sámano left Mexico about a year ago. He is currently taking creating writing classes at Rosemont College as he works on a novel based in Philadelphia. He had lived on Osage Street for less than a month when the earthquake happened. 

Carlos Pérez Sámano was living in Little Osage in West Philadelphia for less than a month when neighbors helped him organize a fundraising effort for his hometown, Mexico City.

His neighbor, Mary Maran, reached out by email, knowing he was isolated from his friends and family. She bumped into him on the street hours later.

“He looked like we all did after 9/11,” Maran said. “He was rocked, he was upset and that’s actually the closest I came to those disasters. I don’t have family in Florida or Texas, but Carlos is a neighbor and a friend.”

When Pérez Sámano got on Twitter, he saw videos of people in Mexico City helping move rubble from the earthquake and organizing rescue efforts. Though new to “Little Osage,” he reached out to his neighbors to see if they could organize some way to help.

“The neighbors reacted,” Pérez Sámano said. “And the neighbors told me, ‘Why don’t we do a fundraising campaign?”

Maran’s three daughters Sophia Sanzari, 10, Sadie Palmer, 8, and Kirby Palmer, 5, had previously set up lemonade stands to raise money for different causes. They decided they wanted to help in the fundraising effort.

“It always got into my mind and thought like if this happened to me,” Sanzari said. “I’d be pretty heart broken too.”

The girls made signs in both English and Spanish to help draw attention.

Maran reached out to the International Red Cross to make sure it was OK to set up a donation box. The girls decorated signs with writing in both English and Spanish to hold up. Three days after the earthquake took place they set up on the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue chanting, “Disaster relief! Donate to the Red Cross!” 

Pérez Sámano was walking his dog Ira when he saw the girls fundraising outside of Clarkville restaurant. When he returned home, he told his girlfriend how much he loved the place he was living in.

Sisters Sophia Sanzari (left), Kirby Palmer and Sadie Palmer helped collect donations to the Red Cross on the corner of 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue.

“The sense of community is very natural here,” Pérez Sámano said. “You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to be anyone else. You have to be yourself. … So when you see someone doing something for you or for your people, someone you knew maybe just two weeks ago, that makes you feel part of something.”

-Text, images and video by Owen McCue

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