Victims of the Gaithersburg explosion: Here’s how you can help

During this time of giving, there are some concerns that more help is needed for the several families displaced in a massive home fire and explosion in Gaithersburg last week.

FOX 5 reconnected with one of the survivors before sitting down for this year’s Thanksgiving Dinner.

“I usually do it at my house, so it’s kind of weird going to someone else’s house this year,” said 28-year-old Sequoia Royster, a Montgomery County mom who broke walls with her 9- and 3-year-olds to escape-old sons last week after an explosion and fire destroyed several buildings at the Potomac Oaks Condominiums on Quince Orchard Boulevard.

Royster rented an apartment there with her brother and described how the walls shook and sections of the ceiling fell before hearing a loud “boom.” The days that followed were anything but easy.

“Pretty much this situation, you know, having to save your kids and saving your life, having to go through all that — how do you get from here, you know? You have to be strong. You must be a mother. You have to keep doing what you have to do,” Royster said.

Thanksgiving marks a week and day since the Gaithersburg blast that injured 14 people and displaced dozens more. Montgomery County Police ruled that the explosion was the result of a suicide. Arson investigators are still investigating how exactly the suspect in this investigation could have caused so much damage.

I’ve been running around trying to replace my license. Figuring out where my mail is going now and having to replace birth certificates and security cards, everything,” said Royster, who tells FOX 5 that she spent $200 alone replacing the keys to a rental car that was lost in the blast.

This week, thanks to donations raised by the community, the 25 families supported by the Maryland Housing Partnership each received a check for $1,000. Other non-profits and organizations got involved, but more help may be needed.

I know inflation is everyone’s tight, especially now that the holidays are here, but the good thing about this fund is that the funds go to the family,” said Patrick Campbell of the Maryland Housing Partnership.

In a Zoom interview on Thanksgiving Day, Campbell thanked everyone who had donated so far. He tells FOX 5 that around $100,000 was raised in about 8 days to help displaced families.

Going back to previous reports, that’s less than the nearly $500,000 raised in a similar period following the Lyttonsville, Friendly Garden apartment explosion in March. In all, Campbell says, over $700,000 was raised to support these families over a few months.

Sometimes we can think of money as just money, but the thing about money is that it removes other problems and challenges, and that same night we’ve made people cry simply because they felt relief. You know, they can pay for things. They — people take care of them,” Campbell said.

Different families have different insurance policies and different needs. Royster and her children lost everything. The next hurdle is finding an apartment.

Royster tells FOX 5 the five families staying in hotels have until November 30 to leave.

Very hectic because you have to replace everything. You still don’t have certain things and you still don’t know where you’re really going,” she said. “You just take it and run with it.”

I am grateful to be alive. That’s all I can say for now,” added the mother-of-two.

Some of the individual families have created their own GoFundMe accounts. FOX 5 is told there are no fees – 100% of funds raised on the Maryland Housing Partnership fundraising page will go to affected families. Checks are distributed in batches rather than all at once.

Visit the Maryland Housing Partnership fundraising page here.

Below are fundraising accounts shared on GoFundMe:

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