Israel Rivera is much like many of the immigrants who came to southern Chester County to make a better life for his family.
For the past 19 years, he’s worked with the grounds and maintenance crew at the Unionville School District. John Sanville, superintendent of the district, called him one of the hardest workers he’s seen.
And like many other immigrants, Rivera’s pay is on the low side, about $500 a week. So he obtained another job that didn’t interfere with his main job, and that added another $235 per week. He also worked other side jobs where he could, and as a result, only got about 4 hours of sleep per night.
Rivera’s life was turned upside-down last month when a fire that is believed to be electrical in origin ripped through his house. The house was consumed by flames, as well as all of the Rivera family’s possessions. Their furniture, their photos, their clothes, their TV’s – and destroyed in the fire.
Unfortunately, the insurance the Rivera family had did not cover possessions inside the house. As a result, Rivera, his wife and their four children had no place to live, no fresh clothes to wear, and no where to turn.
But Rivera and his family quickly found what kind of a community they live in. Local civic organizations rallied to help get the family in a small, temporary home. Kennett High School, where three of the Rivera children attend, staged a clothing drive. Unionville High School did the same. Donations poured in from the community, after word went out via social media and this newspaper. The Garage Youth Center in Kennett Square was the drop-off site, and many people in the community donated to the cause. They sent in gift cards, clothes and even furniture.
Said Sanville: “We put out a plea for help and we had to tell people no more clothes. We had a conference room full of clothes. The response has been unbelievable. This is a great community.”
Indeed it is. It makes us feel proud to live in a community with so many caring people. When Rivera told us how happy he was that so many people helped, he felt helpless that he couldn’t do something to repay the many who helped.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he said. “God has a plan for me. I lost everything, but there are so many people here who care.”
A special thanks goes out to both Kennett and Unionville school districts for acting immediately to help the Rivera family. Students, administrators and parents all worked together to make sure the need was met.
Right now, the Rivera family is living in a small house located in East Marlborough Township, thanks to a generous non-profit organization.
Next time you read about a negative story, think about what our community did for the Rivera family. Indeed, we are fortunate to live in this area, where kindness and generosity abounds.
--by Fran Maye