Jeff Levine was already dealing with a crisis last week when he got a new shock.

Levine is executive director at the Long Beach Rescue Mission, and when a Christmas tree caught fire on Dec. 22 and charred the organization’s Lydia House shelter, he and other staffers scrambled to make sure the women and children staying there were safe and accounted for.

After getting the all-clear, Levine’s first concern was to ensure there was no risk of this happening again.

“I went to bed every night once we moved the residents back in wondering if this was an electrical issue,” said Levine.

It was a relief when fire investigators said the blaze was caused by lights on the Christmas tree catching fire — an accident or malfunction that wouldn’t be easily replicated. But that sense of safety evaporated when a staff member told Levine the lights couldn’t have caused the fire — they were turned off.

Four days after the blaze, Levine and his staff reviewed security camera video from that night and watched as a Lydia House resident intentionally set the fire.

The video shows a 45-year-old woman lighting the tree before she pulls closer some nearby drapes, causing them to ignite. As she leaves, she looks back, as if checking to make sure the fire is still roaring, and then casually walks away.

The woman, who has since been arrested, is one of the residents Levine and other Rescue Mission staff members worked swiftly to take care of after the fire. For almost a week after the blaze, she’d gone about her daily routine, never letting on that she sparked the flames that could have taken the lives of 47 people at Lydia House.

For the past three years, I have been privileged to witness the incredible growth of the Long Beach Rescue Mission — an unwavering force in the ongoing battle against homelessness in the city. Despite Long Beach’s challenges in addressing its homeless population, the Mission has consistently provided love, guidance, food, shelter and transformative opportunities to those in need.

So what made a woman who had been a recipient of the Mission’s kindness burn through the opportunity?

That question has left many in the Lydia House feeling uneasy. Emotions like fear, sadness and anger are all justified, but Levine is once again setting the standard for the Rescue Mission and leading with love.

“I think it speaks to the illness,” he said. While it is difficult for him to process the events that led to the fire, he understands those suffering from substance abuse and mental issues may often do things they would not do if they were in their right mind.

Still, the moment has hindered the Mission from doing the work that Levine believes he and the Mission were called to do. The fire has delayed families from moving into the Lydia House as the repairs from the fire are completed.

While the holidays have passed, I hope the spirit of goodwill still lingers on. At the Mission’s toy giveaway before Christmas, I saw the joy on the faces of those who have so little, who find immense happiness in things we often take for granted. It was a poignant reminder of the impact we can make on those around us with just one small gesture.

If you can volunteer your time, money or items that could benefit those in need, please reach out to the Long Beach Rescue Mission. You can visit them online or give them a call at 562-591-1292.