ANTIOCH — “Have you ever had a neighbor whose family got along with your family in so many amazing ways?”
So reads part of a Gofundme.com fundraising pitch set up by an Antioch family trying to raise money for their neighbors who were burned out of their home on Nov. 9. The Mann family has lived next door to the Shemirani family on Buffalo Court in Antioch for 15 years, finalizing their deals to purchase the then-new homes just one day apart.
“They closed one day before us on their loan,” Donald Mann said. “They watched all of our kids grow up and played with them outside.”
“Excellent,” homeowner Abdi Shemirani said when asked how he felt about his neighbors. “They were very good, especially Don Mann. He was able to help out. I was out of the country. I came back two days later. I heard a lot of good things about all of the neighbors. He was able to help the family, make some phone calls. He called the Red Cross.”
Shemirani, 55, was in his native Iran when a fire broke out in the early morning at his southeast Antioch home. Mann said his family was evacuated at 2 a.m. His neighbors knocked on the door to wake them up and tell them to get out in case the fire spread. As the Manns came outside, the first firefighters were arriving.
The Manns’ house ended up untouched and the house on the other side of the fire suffered barely any damage, according to Mann. The Manns’ neighbors were not so lucky.
Their house was destroyed.
The good news is that the rest of the family — Abdi’s wife Patricia, Anthony, Anthony’s wife Jessenia and their 2 1/2-year old son Jayden — all got out.
So did the family pets: two dogs, two pet rats and a cat.
One of the rats didn’t get out during the evacuation but was found by a firefighter later.
Mann said the family’s smoke alarms were working, adding it’s a reminder to check the batteries regularly.
The fire apparently started when hot coals left over from a barbecue on the front porch ignited and spread quickly, according to investigators the day after the fire.
As if being forced out of his home wasn’t enough, Shemirani was involved in a car accident when coming home from the airport two days after the fire.
Shemirani’s son Anthony was driving him home when his car and another car both tried to merge into the same lane. The two cars hit fender to fender.
The Shemiranis just got their car back on Monday.
“I said, ‘OK, this is the second thing that has happened,” the elder Shemirani said.
“What is happening next?’
“Fifteen minutes into the country and this.”
Since the fire, the family has been staying in a hotel in Pleasant Hill.
Their insurance company is trying to set them up in temporary housing in Antioch nearby while the house is rebuilt.
Donald Mann’s daughter Mellany set up the Gofundme fundraiser the day after the fire.
So far, almost $2,000 has been raised for the family.
The pitch, at http://www.gofundme.com/h0c5f4, continues, “That have touched your hearts and has been there for you in your time of need?
“Well our neighbors are those type of people who give, and give, and give, and now they have absolutely nothing to give.”
The Manns are coordinating donations at their home.
“People have been coming by and donating food, donating clothing, pet supplies,” Donald Mann said.
“One guy donated a $300 card to Macy’s so they can go out and get clothes.
The son works at Lowe’s and the manager donated some storage boxes so the items we were able to salvage could be stored.
“One day, I did the court like it was a fast-food drive-thru. The cars were lined up.
“One person would drive up and offload, the next person would drive up and offload, then another would drive up.”
It’s not just the Manns who are helping out. Everyone on the block is helping, according to Mann.
“One neighbor stored all of their belongings,” he said.
“Another came over and helped them carry stuff out. Everybody’s been helping as much as they can.
“I’ve got people coming here who don’t even know the family and don’t know us.
“They saw something on the Internet and want to help out.
“The night of the fire, the people in the community had blankets, hot cocoa, coats, diapers out there.
“It basically started right then. It has just been amazing to be honest with you.”
Don’s wife Veronica added: “It’s going to take a lot to get their lives back together.”
The Shemarinis previously owned Stuffed Pizza and Funtastic in southeast Antioch until both businesses lost their leases in 1999.
Since then, Abdi Shemarini has worked several jobs, including at a startup in San Jose.
However, he has been disabled due to advanced diabetes for about a year.
Information on donating goods and services is on the Gofundme page.
The Manns can be contacted there.