Di Bruno Bros joins surge of support for South Philly explosion victims

Community groups have been stepping up all over the neighborhood.

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Facebook / Di Bruno Bros
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Update: Di Bruno Bros. is extending the fundraiser through Jan. 5.

The swell of community support continues for people affected by last week’s catastrophic South Philly explosion, with various neighborhood groups and businesses bringing aid to those in need. The latest to pitch in? Local specialty grocer Di Bruno Bros.

“I don’t think there’s many cities that respond as quickly,” said Di Bruno company president Bill Mignucci, noting he was inspired by the efforts spearheaded by Termini Bros., Mike’s BBQ and Le Virtu. “We want to make sure we keep up the momentum.”

The blast near 8th and Reed streets on Dec. 20 leveled three rowhomes and sent a fire blazing through several more. Two people were killed, and at least 60 were displaced from their homes. Officials are still searching for the cause. There was a lot of Water Department work on the street in the past month, per an Inquirer report, but the city says it hasn’t yet found a connection.

Passyunk Square resident Alyssandra Docherty saw the smoke from her window when it happened.

Later, she told Billy Penn, she saw a note on Facebook about people looking for emergency supplies, and sprang into action. After collecting trunkfuls of materials like bedding and supplies from others in local “Buy Nothing” groups, she went out to make deliveries.

“I walked into this young family’s new apartment,” she wrote on Facebook, “and was almost immediately handed the 1-year-old child. The mom wanted to take my picture so that when he’s older she can tell him about all the generous people who helped them.”

Some of the supplies brought to neighbors

Some of the supplies brought to neighbors

Courtesy Alyssandra Docherty

The outpouring of generosity is Philly being Philly, said Mignucci of Di Bruno Bros. The 80-year-old gourmet grocery is the latest food purveyor to launch a fundraising drive: its two Italian Market storefronts will donate 5% of all sales on both Saturday and Sunday to the cause.

He expects the amount collected this weekend to be significant, since it’s a busy time of year for businesses on South 9th Street.

“No less than a check for $5,000,” Mignucci estimated, adding, “Even if I have to go buy a lot of provolone and olives myself. But really I think we’re going to far exceed that.” The company is also taking donations from staff.

Mignucci said the money will likely be handed to the Passyunk Square Civic Association, which has become something of a clearinghouse for help efforts around the tragedy.

“I have an alert of anything that happens in our neighborhood,” association board president Sarah Anton said. “People began immediately wanting to offer support, which is really a testament to the neighborhood.”

She set up a page to keep track of the various GoFundMe pages related to the incident, and also initially had a button for direct monetary donations, which she said raised about $4,000. She’s also been coordinating with the East Passyunk Avenue Business Improvement District to get aid into the right hands.

“Our organization has been working directly with the civic association to coordinate food and clothing donations, pet supplies, and even offers for housing,” said EPABID director Adam Leiter. “It’s been inspiring to see the overwhelming amount of support and the desire to help our neighbors in so many ways.”

Mignucci echoed the sentiment — while adding a note about the multicultural makeup of the neighborhood. Some non-English-speaking residents have said they had trouble accessing government services because of the language barrier.

“This is our neighborhood, all the Italian immigrants and now all the other immigrants. It’s our little Ellis Island, ” Mignucci said. “These people are part of the fabric of Philly, we need to support them.”