Scott Dolan, Staff Writer
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When the first of Lewiston’s three massive downtown blazes struck on April 29, Erin Reed got the word to go outside in a phone call from her boss. Flames were spreading to the building where she had recently lived for four years.

“I stood there with everyone and watched it burn,” said Reed, 27, who had moved out of 76 Pine St. just months before in 2012. If she hadn’t moved, she would have lost everything she owned, like the 75 people who had once been her neighbors, and who were displaced that day by the fire that destroyed three apartment buildings. Everything they owned went up in flames: furniture, clothing, personal items … even pets.

In the days that followed that first fire, two more were set on nearby streets, destroying six more buildings. The total number of people who were displaced rose to more than 200, most of them refugees from countries in Africa.

Reed, a staff member at Trinity Jubilee Center, a social services agency, knew many of them already – either because she was once their neighbor or because many of them were already Jubilee Center clients.

Reed’s former landlord, Adilah Muhammad, came into the center the day after the first fire to find some of her tenants. “We hugged,” Reed said.

While multiple agencies were handling the relief efforts, many people came to the Jubilee Center instead because they were familiar with the people who had always been there to help them in the past.

“People started to come in to ask for help,” Reed said. “The families had nothing, and they knew donations were out there somewhere.”

Without duplicating other efforts that were going on, the Jubilee Center found a role for itself linking the displaced and those who could help fill their needs.

Reed guesses she has made between 300 to 400 phone calls connecting people with donated furniture, clothes and household goods.

“As soon as someone knew they had an apartment, we would contact the warehouse,” Reed said. “They thought they were going to have to start over with nothing, so they were very grateful.”

Reed began volunteering at the Jubilee Center in 2004, as a freshman at Bates College. She became a full-time staff member at the center in 2010. The extra work after the fires seemed like “the least I can do.”

“I have a stable family, I’m healthy, I have a good job and enough to eat,” Reed said. “I’m luckier than a lot of people in this world.”