Jackie Kelly wasn't supposed to be at the College Park Community Library on Aug. 16. She wasn't supposed to meet the Davis family — a family of two parents and three children ages 6, 4 and 3 — who had walked a mile with nearly everything they owned amid a heat index of 105.
But the Davis' landlord had decided to sell the house they were living in, and they weren't able to find a place on Craigslist that would take a family of five. The family had walked all the way to the city's Church of the Nazarene in an attempt to find somewhere to stay, which happened to be right by the library.
"I think God put me there for this reason," said Kelly, the library's director.
A long-time College Park resident, Kelly reached out to Mayor Patrick Wojahn for help connecting the Davises to social services and potential housing services, Wojahn said, as well as for help setting up a GoFundMe page. The page reached $1,585 by the time it closed on Sunday — exceeding the original $1,000 goal, which was raised in about one day. $1,500 was deposited in a savings account for the family on Tuesday morning, Kelly said.
"Their story is compelling … you never know when something might happen where you fall down on your luck," Wojahn said. "I know that the community that we live in, College Park, is a generous and caring community and that there would be people out there who are willing to help."
Kiesha Davis, the mother, described her family's circumstance as both depressing and stressful.
"We've been going to organizations, going back on Craigslist and trying to see if any churches have any members … down in College Park [who] have a basement they could rent to a family," Davis said. "We did look on Craigslist before this happened and nobody wanted to take a family of five people."
The Davis family has moved around to a few locations after leaving their home, including Motel 6 in Laurel, Kelly said. On Aug. 28, a local church donated a four-night stay at College Park's Red Roof Inn, she said.
District 1 Councilman Fazlul Kabir has also reached out to his friends and family to assist the Davises, and had gone with his wife to visit them at the inn.
"We have been asking around our family members and also friends [for] long-term work [for the] family," Kabir said.
A family friend of Kabir's, Mahfuz Rahman, is helping the family as well.
"We feel this is an opportunity for all of us to spend our time and whatever we have and … that was very fulfilling," said Rahman, an IT professional. "This is not something very big … but that makes a big difference in our life, in our society and our community about how we can contribute to the country overall."
College Park seafood restaurant Fishnet and is also giving each family member one free meal per day for a month starting on Aug. 26, Rahman said.
With the community's help, things have improved. The Davis' oldest daughter is now registered at Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier, Kelly said, and Kiesha Davis has found temporary work stuffing residential handbooks for the city, along with other residents, which starts on Thursday. Her husband will distribute the handbooks with help from the city's Public Works staff, and the two will work different days so the other can take care of the kids.
"We just need a stable place so we can get back on our feet," Davis said.
Her husband has also found temporary landscaping jobs and is applying to full-time jobs. Starting Tuesday, the family began using food stamps, Kelly said. Four families provided nine meals for the Davises in the past few weeks, and Kelly has driven them around for grocery shopping and bank visits.
The family needs $61 per night until they find a permanent housing situation, according to the GoFundMe page.
"Many different people are helping," Kelly said. "It's amazing what has transpired since just writing maybe 50 emails, and it's just kind of snowballing."
Correction: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Mahfuz Rahman is an employee at Fishnet restaurant in College Park. This story has been updated.