It takes less than five minutes for a spark to develop fully into an inferno. It takes less than five minutes to go from a well-being family to a family without a possession to your name.

How does a family recover from a catastrophic house fire? It's staggering to imagine, but how do you cope with losing every worldly possession in a fire?

Many of the local apartment fire victims don't have insurance, even though renter's insurance is quite reasonably priced. Imagine, not one belonging is salvageable and you are faced with the reality of starting all over from nothing at all. Along with the other ruins, fire victims also lose a sense of place in the world.

So if I asked you to write out an inventory list of what you'd need to start anew, you'd realize quickly the countless, innumerable things that were destroyed by the fire. This brings to mind New Bedford's Fresh Start program that gives victim families needed stabilization and a lot of the "stuff" people require to re-establish a household.

You know that inventory list mentioned earlier? Is there anything on it that you can dish out, like dishes? What about giving some gently used pots and pans, lamps and shades, or coffee makers, toasters, and microwave ovens?

The volunteers of Fresh Start have organized a community gathering to rebuild their supply of household goods that's been depleted because of the recent string of fires in New Bedford. Can you help out by giving a gently-used kitchen appliance, a gift card, or the like?

The collection will be on Saturday, April 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the municipal parking lot across from New Bedford City Hall at William and North Sixth Streets.

Right on to the City of New Bedford Department of Community Services, Fresh Start Program, Lighting the Way and Church Women United for doing this. Call the Department of Community Services at (508) 961-3136 for more information.

What do you say when someone loses everything in a house fire? Say just two things: "I'm so very sorry," and "How can I help?"

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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