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Questions Raised About Charity Requests
OCEAN CITY - The alleged victims of a mobile home explosion in Ocean City in early December have been making the rounds seeking charitable donations from individuals, businesses and financial institutions in the community, but it now appears the supposedly displaced mother of three is not on the up and up.
Around 3 a.m. on Dec. 4, Ocean City Communications received a call for a reported structure fire in the area of 136th Street and Coastal Highway. Ocean City aire and police units arrived a short time later to find a mobile home on Gorman Ave. completely engulfed in flames with exposure to other mobile homes in Sundowner Park.
The fire, later characterized as an explosion, completely destroyed the mobile home in which it originated and spread to at least two others, causing serious damage. The occupant of the home that exploded was seriously injured and flown by Maryland State Police helicopter to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center where she remains this week, according to the Sundowner Park property manager, who preferred to remain anonymous.
In the days following the explosion, a local woman and mother of three, identified as Abigail Collick, has claimed to be the occupant of the mobile home destroyed in the fire and that she and her children lost everything in the blaze. She has contacted local banks seeking donations in the form of money and clothing and an Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association email blitz last week encouraged the local business community to reach out and help the alleged victims.
However, it now appears Collick was not a resident of the mobile home destroyed in the fire, although it appears likely her mother, who remains in the hospital, rented the property and would occasionally babysit the children. According to the property manager, only the victim of the explosion lived in the home and Collick and her children did not live there.
'Unfortunately, it is not true,' she said on condition of anonymity. 'The woman who lived there remains in the hospital and lived there alone. No one else lived there.'
The property manager said she called the owner of the mobile home destroyed in the fire, who confirmed the victim lived alone in the residence. She also contacted the neighbors and the Ocean City Fire Marshal's Office and all confirmed the victim lived alone in the mobile home, discounting the story of the mother of three displaced by the explosion.
'This is so sad, and it's very disturbing,' she said. 'It's upsetting to think a person would try to take advantage of the generous nature of the community, especially around the holidays when so many other people are in need.'
Collick solicited help from Taylor Bank, which in turn began seeking help from the community on the family's behalf. However, bank officials this week confirmed they had backed off the fundraising effort when questions about the validity of the victim's story arose.
'I got the same information and actually called the Fire Marshal's Office to find out what the deal was,' said Taylor Bank Product Specialist Stacy Schaffer this week. 'They did not live there, although she [Collick] told me twice she did, yet there were some children's items lost in the trailer her mother lived in. I do believe some of her children's belongings were lost, yet she gave me false information.'
Schaffer said Taylor Bank has stopped collecting monetary donations.
'I returned any gift cards I had collected and do not feel she should receive anything except for children's necessities at this point,' she said. 'It's really a shame that someone would do something like this, especially with truly needed families out there. I suppose desperate times have called for desperate measures for this woman.'
Ocean City Police Public Information Officer Mike Levy said this week the department has not received any formal complaints about the allegedly false donation scheme and there is currently no investigation underway. Levy did say one family connected with the mobile home explosion was helped through the department's annual Needy Family Christmas Program, but he didn't believe it was Collick.
'We already helped one family out that was associated with that incident, but I don't believe they were the same people who have been soliciting donations from the banks,' he said.
Meanwhile, someone connected to the Dec. 4 fire really in need of some help has not sought or received any assistance, according to the Sundowner Park property manager. An elderly man who lived alone in an adjacent trailer had his home completely destroyed in the explosion and subsequent fire. According to the property manager, he has temporarily moved in with his son, but his insurance will completely replace his destroyed home. He has since had a heart attack because of the stress related to the incident, but is okay and has returned to his son's home.
'If anybody needs help, it's this poor man,' the Sundowner property manager said. 'He has lost everything and his insurance company is not going to replace his home. On the one hand, you have this woman falsely seeking donations, while this poor man who hasn't asked for anything needs the most.'