Early morning blaze shakes West End
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West End resident John McNally said that his neighborhood has been slower to recover than the East End, and that the fire was another blow to an organization that was doing great work in the community. “They kept the area afloat over the past few weeks,” McNally said. “The hits just keep coming.”
According to Browne, the building will have to be demolished and rebuilt. The Knights of Columbus had recently begun to focus on repairing damage it suffered in the storm — a problem, he joked ruefully, that was eliminated by the fire. “Our demolition is pretty much done now, thanks to the Long Beach Fire Department,” he said.
Browne added that the organization would remain active in the community — even without a headquarters — and would still hold its annual children’s Christmas party on Dec. 23, from 1 to 4 p.m. at St. Ignatius Martyr Church. This year, local children made a “Santa’s wish list,” and the Knights will be fulfilling as many wishes as possible at the party.
“We’re not going anywhere,” Browne said.
George Gentilesco, a member and a former deputy grand knight, was in the building the night before the fire, watching the Giants-Saints game with his father. He said that he grew up in the building, and seeing the damage the next day was disheartening.
“It’s kind of like a second home,” Gentilesco said. “It’s a good place to hang your hat.”
As the organization looks to rebuild, Corbett said that he hoped its members would find help in the same community they had worked to support. “The K of C was there when the West End needed them,” Corbett said. “Now, hopefully, the West End will be there when the K of C needs them.”