Beaver Dam area community banding together to help fire victims

April 15, 2018 GMT

St. Vincent de Paul, American Bank and Tom and Judy Heffron are leading community donors to help the people displaced by a recent fire.

The Executive, a building with 17 apartments at 600 W. Third St., was destroyed by fire last Saturday. Two people died in the blaze — Jade Wilson, 24, and Corrine Bolin, 63.

John Oathout spoke Thursday at a Beaver Dam Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event in the downtown American Bank lobby. The bank president introduced some of the people instrumental in helping the displaced tenants including Ben Nelson of the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store and the Heffrons, both community activists and St. Vincent De Paul volunteers.

The bank has established a relief fund and is accepting donations at all of its three locations — at Walmart at 120 Frances Lane, on the north side at 1519 N. Spring St. and downtown at 115 Front St.

Nelson summarized the relief provided by St. Vincent de Paul to those displaced in an explosion March 5 and an intentional burn March 15 at an apartment building at 109 Knaup Drive. Residents in that building were displaced after a man was killed while handling explosives that were being formulated for an unknown intent. Another explosion occurred when firefighters detonated unknown compounds found in the apartment’s refrigerator. The presence of potentially explosive materials caused officials to burn the building to protect the residents from further explosions.

According to Nelson, St. Vincent’s provided more than $30,000 in cash, in addition to gift cards and items for the tenants to fill their new homes. He also highlighted the thousands of hours put in by St. Vincent volunteers and staff.

“The organization’s assistance to them has not stopped,” he said. “That same commitment continues as we move to focus on friends and neighbors who have been displaced by the recent apartment fire at 600 W. Third St.”

He indicated ways to get involved including donating online (at americanbankbd.com); donating cash at the thrift store; donating furniture, cookware, clothing and other items that fire victims and others can use; and contributing in person at St. Vincent’s or at American Bank.

Nelson added, “Area citizens that want to get involved can rest easy knowing that when they make a donation to SVDP Emergency Relief Fund, 100 percent of the money will go equally to the residents of the Third Street apartments.”

He suggested that other ways people can help these victims is through their prayers, by contacting the thrift store with housing options, by shopping at the thrift store, whose funding helps cover the victims’ first month’s rent and their hotel expenses, or by organizing a fundraising event or by attending a fundraiser held by someone else

“You may also help in any way you can in ways that are not listed, but which you feel your heart calling you to do,” Nelson said.

The Heffrons announced a $5,000 challenge grant in which they will match cash donations up to $5,000 to help fire victims to recover their former lives.

“When disaster hits a community, you can usually tell what kind of community it is,” Tom Heffron said. “Beaver Dam and the surrounding area in Dodge County have been tremendous for both the immediate response and the ongoing response to the victims of all the tragedies that have been happening here. Hopefully we’ll hit that match and surpass that and help these victims in a really good way.”

The match is effective until April 30.