The Fayette County Food Shelf that served 1,900 people in 2013 suffered heavy damage in a New Year’s Eve fire. Thankfully, it still stands. Besides possibly $50,000 in food alone to feed the hungry, they lost seven freezers and two refrigerators. Many groups, organizations, and businesses are coming to the aid to help the pantry continue its services, especially with high heating bills from the sub-zero temperatures of late, which are making it harder than ever for many people in need to have enough money left over to feed their families.
“We are so grateful that no one was hurt. The rest is just stuff. It will take a lot of hard work, but it will be just as nice or even better. The support is such a blessing,” said Pantry Manager and Calmar native Karen (Gerleman) Martin. She was especially worried for the brave firefighters, including her son Brain Martin, who battled the tall flames coming out of the roof and thankful no one was hurt battling the fire and also thankful the students who rented the upstairs apartment wasn’t home when the fire broke out.
Different churches, groups and businesses have volunteered temporary space for the pantry and they have decided on a place. “We now have a temporary location for the Fayette County Food Shelf at 201 East Clark Street in the Northeast Iowa Professional Building in rooms 107, 108 and 109. We will already be open this Thursday (Jan. 9) 1-6 pm and Monday 1-4 continuing with the Monday/Thursday days/times for pick up. We hope to move in to the thrift store part as soon as Duane (her husband) can close off the old Food Shelf (main building). The Fayette County Food Shelf will then be in there which has separate heating and wiring from the main building. We hope to have this done within a few months,” says Karen who also owned the house with her husband Duane, both of Fayette.
The food pantry was on the first floor of the main building built in 1920, and at one time was a church, later a feed store and then a store called Everything but the Baby. Upstairs housed a four bedroom apartment rented out to college students that luckily were home for the holidays. An addition was added on to the house when the Martin’s bought the house about five years ago for the thrift shop which also has smoke damage. Wiring was determined the cause of the fire in the old home, the new addition’s furnace and wiring was deemed safe to use.
The progress is very slow, as they pick through salvaged items that once was the thrift store in the new addition which also took in consignments. Wearing facemasks because of the smoke damage they along with wonderful volunteers go through the items, most going to the landfill as people volunteer their dump trucks and service. After that tedious job is finished, a special cleaning crew will come in and after all is cleaned they will repaint inside and use as the Food Shelf until it is determined what will happen to the main building. The old main building has to be left alone now until the insurance adjuster advises if it will be bulldozed or repaired.
If you can help, bring your donation to feed the hungry to First State Bank in Fayette or send checks to PO Box 711, Fayette, IA 52142. Photo of the fire are courtesy of Festina native Nancy (Lutkenhaus) Wulfekuhle.