LaMonica Carter, a beloved teacher at the for the past 11 years, still needs a place to live more than a week after a fire destroyed her Belleville home and everything she owns on Mother's Day.
A still shell-shocked Carter said she and her four children, ages 7 to 14, are essentially homeless, forced to stay with her mother in a one-bedroom, one-bath, apartment.
"A lot of families have provided us with food and clothing, which is great, but we need somewhere to live," Carter told Montclair Patch. "I haven't been able to work because I've been out each day visiting all sorts of agencies, trying to get some sort of help, but to no avail.
"I went to officials in Belleville but they have no funds. Other places said they can't help because we didn't live in their town, but lived in Belleville," she said. "I've been out each morning by 7 a.m. and coming back home each afternoon at 4 or 5 p.m. I've been to 10 different agencies, at least."
Carter, a single mother, said she doesn't earn a lot of money from her job at the preschool and certainly doesn't have the funds for a security deposit.
"If I find a place, it will cost me a few thousand dollars for the security deposit alone," she said.
Carter said she's hoping to find a rental property either in Montclair, Bloomfield, or Belleville.
On Mother's Day, May 13, Carter and her four children salvaged nothing but the clothes on their backs when a fire broke out at their wood-frame Belleville home, incinerating everything inside. Their toys. Their furniture. Their utensils. Everything is gone.
Fortunately, no one was home at the time of the afternoon three-alarm blaze that grew so hot it melted the siding on the house next door.
The family had no renters insurance and lost every one of their possessions.
Carter has been a full-time teacher at the Montclair Community Pre-K for 11 years and has touched many lives in the community, school directors say.
"Mrs. Carter was our son's teacher last year and, in my opinion, is one of the best teachers MCPK has," said Montclair mother Selma Avdicevic. "She is soft-spoken, kind, and loving, always ready with a hug and a kind word. I hope you can find it in your heart to help."
The school has been accepting donations on behalf of the family. Suggested items include: gift cards to Target, Shoprite or CVS, cash or other goods. Carter's children range in age from 8 to 14 years old and are the following sizes: Girl's size 8, women’s size 9/10, boy's size 10, and boy's size 18.
The school is open from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and can accept donations at the Front Desk, 49 Orange Road, 973-509-4500.
Montclair Patch also would like to encourage landlords in Montclair, Bloomfield or Belleville to step forward with offers to help.
Indeed, anyone who can assist Carter and her family as they seek a place to live is encouraged to email Shelley@patch.com.
"We need all the help we can get sooner rather than later," Carter said. "We are basically all living in just one room right now."