Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that he and his wife would collect donations to replace hundreds of holiday presents for seniors destroyed Monday when an inferno swept a downtown construction site.
Heat and smoke from the raging nighttime blaze set off sprinklers at a nearby building that houses the city's Department of Aging. Approximately 2,000 gifts that were going to be distributed this week to senior citizens were ruined by water damage.
Via the mayor's nonprofit charitable organization — the Mayor's Fund for Los Angeles — Garcetti's wife, Amy Wakeland, will lead the fundraising campaign to buy replacement presents. She said in a statement that the effort was "intended to show our appreciation for those whose hard work laid the foundation for the Los Angeles we enjoy today."
"These aren't luxuries — these are everyday items that can make a world of difference to a senior in need," she said.
The gifts were part of a Secret Santa-type program called Project CARE, which matches city employees with senior citizens in need.
Most of the seniors in the program are low-income, live alone or don't have family nearby, said Department of Aging general manager Laura Trejo.
Trejo said Wednesday that she was "delighted" by the quickly organized fundraising drive.
"We know it's going to be bigger and better than we ever anticipated," Trejo said. She said she hopes to have all the presents distributed by the end of the year.
The Mayor's Fund is accepting donations online.