By Brecken Branstrator
A shot from jewelry designer Theresa Kaz’s house after it burned down on March 22. Kaz is raising money for the Paramus Fire Department who helped her and her family on the day of the fire.
Paramus, N.J.—Jewelry designer Theresa Kaz had the unthinkable happen: on Friday, her house in New Jersey burned down.

After a candle caught the house on fire, the Paramus Fire Department jumped to action to put it out. One of the firefighters was familiar with Kaz’s family and, knowing they had a dog (but not knowing the dog was already out of the house safely) even ran into the burning house to save it.  

Luckily, no one was hurt, but Kaz and her family lost everything.

And though it’s a lot for anyone to handle, Kaz said she’s been overwhelmed with the support of her community; strangers dropped off clothing for her kids, the Paramus mayor came to the house to assure them of their support, and much more. 

There’s also been a strong response from the jewelry community, from messages of support to offers to help, and she said the kindness and outpouring from the industry has been heartwarming.

Kaz also said she can’t overstate the love she has for Ylang 23’s The Next Now competition, especially since finding out she was a finalist Thursday evening changed the trajectory of her Friday, putting her and her dog outside of the home in addition to the rest of the family on the day the fire happened.

It also meant that Kaz had, by chance, already taken her entire jewelry collection to her mom’s house to prepare for the competition, so it too was safe from the fire.

So while much has been taken, Kaz said the experience has also allowed her the opportunity to take stock of what’s really important in life—as long as family and friends are safe and healthy, the rest is simply material.

When industry members offered to start a GoFundMe page for Kaz and her family, she realized that what she really wanted to do was raise money for the fire department that had so selflessly helped her that day.

The Paramus Fire Department is a volunteer department made up of four fire companies with a total of 130 members on call around the clock 365 days a year. Some of the men who helped Kaz and her family on the day of the fire even left paying jobs to respond to the call.

With the donations, Kaz is hoping to provide them with funds to make their surroundings at the firehouse more comfortable after a long day’s work.

The Contemporary Jewelry Design Group, of which Kaz is a member, has created the GoFundMe page, which is now live and accepting donations.

“There simply are no words to convey the appreciation, respect, and admiration we have and feel for our volunteer firefighters,” Kaz said. “I am still overwhelmed with emotion when I think of their bravery and selflessness. ‘Thank you’ just feels so inadequate.”

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