A Baltimore church has announced a collaboration with several donors, including the United Way of Central Maryland, to help families who were victims of an August home explosion that killed two people, injured several others, and destroyed and damaged many structures.
The Empowerment Temple AME covered the funeral costs for families of those killed in the Aug. 10 explosion in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore, Pastor G.J. Barnes of The Empowerment Temple AME and his wife, Junetta Barnes, said during a Wednesday news conference.
Barnes and his wife said the church, several blocks away on Primrose Avenue, is in the process of rolling out four phases in assisting families trying to cope with the aftermath of the blast, a plan they said includes supporting families “physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially.”
Joseph Graham, 20, a rising junior at Morgan State University, and Lonnie Herriott, 61, died during the incident and were found in the in the wreckage as crews cleaned up.
The church has spent approximately $35,000 to cover funeral costs for Graham and Herriott, along with other needs for the families on Labyrinth Road, they said.
Daniel Gibson, who handles communications for the church, said the funeral costs for Graham and Herriott totaled roughly $15,000.
Other help will come from other donors, including “eight major partners” as of Wednesday, Gibson said.
“We were able to cover 100% of those costs for both families and both funerals and related expenses,” G.J. Barnes said. “We are grateful that the church has made a commitment to continue to invest further services into the Labyrinth Road community.”
Barnes said he and members of the church went door-to-door in the neighborhood to speak with residents following the explosion, hoping to reassure residents that the church would be “taking this walk with them for the long haul.”
Barnes said some staff members who were in the church, which is located just a few blocks south of the blast, felt the force of the explosion. He said residents will be offered help to gain access to licensed counseling through the church, The United Way and other partners in the effort.
Some of the residents who survived the explosion are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
The explosion took place around 10 a.m. Aug. 10, demolishing three two-story row-homes began to crumble in the 4200 block of Labyrinth Road. The sound could be heard for miles. It shattered windows at neighboring homes and businesses, forcing families to board up their homes.
More than 200 emergency responders joined the search and pulled at least one man and woman from the debris following about two hours of effort. The bodies of the dead were discovered and removed later.
As crews were cleaning up, the American Red Cross set up a station at a nearby Applebee’s restaurant, where residents whose homes were damaged could come and get water and food.
Days later, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. said its equipment was not responsible for the explosion and suggested that faulty customer-owned equipment could have caused the blast.