One week after Lancelot Quarshie celebrated his fourth birthday, he was gone.
Lancelot died in a two-alarm blaze in Montgomery Village on Jan. 8, leaving his family — and their community — in shock.
The fire displaced 40 residents and sent four people to the hospital. According to his aunt, Francesca Jones, Lancelot’s parents are not sure how the fire started and are waiting for an official report from county investigators.
Lancelot’s death has been hard for his father, Samuel Quarshie, to handle, she said. Samuel was asleep in the apartment with Lancelot when the fire started, and he was unable to get his son out.
“He is very devastated,” Jones said. “He is not in his full mind. I’m sure anyone in his position would feel the same way.”
Jones remembers seeing smoke in the sky from her workplace on Interstate 270 before getting the news. Lancelot’s mother and Jones’ sister, Nana Sarpong, called her.
“She was yelling and screaming,” she said. “I was in shock.”
Lancelot’s parents have declined to talk to The Gazette.
On Monday afternoon at a Safeway store in Gaithersburg, volunteers from Montgomery Village and Germantown handed shoppers wish lists. Nonprofit organizations and radio station staff set up booths to help raise awareness about the fire and displaced residents’ needs.
Judith Clark, executive director of Women Who Care Ministries, said that about $500 was collected in the first hour of fundraising in front of the grocery store.
“We’re getting a really good community response,” she said.
She said her organization collected more than $2,000 in food donations, about $400 in gift cards and almost $2,000 in cash.
Cash donations will help the people displaced by the fire and with funeral expenses for Lancelot Quarshie.
Women Who Care is reaching displaced residents, who are scattered among family, friends and other locations, through their churches and community groups. Lancelot’s family is temporarily living in a Gaithersburg hotel, courtesy of the Red Cross.
The volunteers’ wish list is topped with gift cards and monetary donations, followed by nonperishable food like rice, canned tuna, spaghetti and cereal. Several carts sitting in front of the store were filled with food donations.
W. Gregory Wims, a Gaithersburg resident and president of the Victims Rights Foundation, said his organization is collecting clothing and blankets for the displaced families.
On Sunday, neighbors and members of World Ministry Church International, the church the Quarshie family belongs to, collected donations for them.
Eunice Abasah attends church with the Quarshie family. She said she has known them for six years, before Lancelot was born. On New Year’s Eve, she said, Lancelot’s parents took him and his siblings to church.
“And then on the 8th, he was gone,” Abasah said.
The church’s pastor, Dwumah Frimpong, said the congregants wanted to bring the family encouragement and “share ... the word of God” as they made their way through a difficult time. Frimpong said he broke the news of the fire to the small congregation after a service that day.
“Everybody is shocked,” he said.
The congregation is made up of about 50 to 60 people, mostly Africans from several different countries. Most know each others’ families, he said.
Lancelot’s parents asked Frimpong to lead a funeral service this coming Saturday before they bury their son. The Quarshie family has two other children, one of whom lives in Ghana, Frimpong said.
The pastor said the community is welcome to attend the service.
Lancelot Quarshie’s service will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hosanna Methodist Church at 14 Brookes Ave. in Gaithersburg. He will be buried at All Souls Cemetary in Germantown.