Jeffery Venning's Home Burned Down

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jeffery Venning is one of the most unique people that I have ever met. I have know Jeff for over ten years. From forcing 'Manos: Hands of Fate' on me, to the amazing orange afro, to late night poker, I have shared some of my most memorable Buffalo experiences with him. Well, I didn't share it with him, but last night (Christmas Day), coming home from dinner with my girlfriend's relatives in Marilla, I stopped by the aftermath of the fire that took Jeff's on home Christmas eve, 2008.

It was devastating. The fire started on the first floor, but from what I could tell, it might as well have been an explosion. There was sut around every orifice of the house, and there were several more of those than there should be. Through the paneless window frames, dark twisted shapes of Jeff's unidentifiable losses could be seen. As I sit comfortably in my home, I can't look at anything that I have without imagining it inside of that haunting wreckage. It tears my heart out to try to imagine what it would be like to never see those photographs of my mother again. Well, as I sat in my warm car, surrounded on the inside by the spoils of another generous christmas, I couldn't remember what color Jeff's house used to be. The roof was a stark, jagged contrast against the dim, hazy Buffalo sky. The scorched angles of what was made me think of a Tim Burton design for the nightmare before Christmas. Well it was.

Jeffery is a machinist who works for the local company Curtis Screw. He was laid off two weeks ago, and, as a result has no income while he waits for his first unemployment check which is due in six weeks. I'm not sure at this point where the check will be mailed, since the city mandates that he demolish the house. He will get an insurance check, but he will be very lucky if the amount of the check covers the balance on his mortgage and the cost of the demolition. You can't imagine how misplaced this misfortune is.

Jeffery has never been focused on material wealth. He has never turned down a request for help in his entire life. He routinely gives to people, even when he's in no position to give. He has always seen himself as fortunate, and the money in his pocket has never served a greater purpose to Jeff than to be given to someone in need. I know this sounds like the kind of picture you paint of a person when you're wearing rose colored glasses, but I assure you that this is no overstatement. Nobody is perfect, and I don't intend to suggest that Jeffery is a pure saint. I don't think that they let imps become saints anyway. But Jeff is very generous, to a fault, and that is the only way to paint him with any color of lens. You wouldn't really understand unless you met him, but if you asked Jeff directly, even now, he'd probably tell you that there are worse off people who you should be giving your money to.

He has needs. He wasn't home when the fire started, so he couldn't save anything. Nobody is sure whether or not his cat, Maurice made it out. We are holding out hope.

Jeff has nothing. No toothbrush, one pair of socks. No bed, no pans, no towels, one pair of shoes.
One shirt.
One coat.
No equity.
No home.

We are trying to put together a series of benefit shows and parties for Jeff in Buffalo. He knows a lot of people, and it seems like everyone I talk to is willing to help out in some way. The response is a testament to the kind of person that Jeff is. We are in the process of setting up a Paypal account to accept donations to help get Jeff back into a home, and we are also working on getting an address to send non-monetary donations to. Christmas is a time of giving, and I'm sure everybody has given just about everything that they can, including Jeff. We aren't looking for huge donations. This isn't an attempt to save everyone. Just one guy, less fortunate than the rest of us, who we can help right now.

Merry Christmas and thanks for reading.