The wintry weather on Sunday did not put a damper in the Stand Behind 109 fundraiser to benefit those who have lost their apartments and possessions with the destruction of the Village Glen apartment building at 109 Knaup Drive.
Organizer Christy Niles said that she did briefly consider rescheduling the event, because of the weather, but she felt it would be better for it to go on with those donating time, food and talents to help raise funds for the families.
“I thought if people wanted to come, that they would,” Niles said. “We live in Wisconsin, not Tennessee. I knew there would be some sort of turnout.”
Sunday’s donations were added to over $50,000 worth of cash donations and many other gift items for the residents including Easter baskets for the children, family photo packages and homemade pillow cases.
The building at 109 Knaup Drive housed the apartment of Benjamin Morrow, 28, who was killed in an explosion March 5 inside his residence.
In the days that followed, investigators found hazardous chemicals they characterized as bomb-making materials inside the apartment. It was eventually determined that burning the building to the ground would be necessary to eliminate the hazard. The apartment was successfully eliminated, but the other residents in the 16-unit apartment building were left without a place to live, and were not able to retrieve their possessions prior to the controlled burn.
Most of the families have been able to find places to rent, Niles said.
“All but one or two have found a new apartment to move into,” Niles said.
Many donated items for the fundraiser. There was a silent auction and raffle items. Stormy’s Music Venue, 209 Front St., donated the use of the building as well as a portion of their sales on Sunday. The band Benign Addiction donated its time. There were also children’s activities earlier in the day.
“I could not have done this without this community, Niles said.
Two of Niles’ best friends live in Village Glen and she knew early on that she wanted to do something to help those who lost their apartments.
“I couldn’t imagine being one of those tenants, and I wanted to make sure I could help,” Niles said. “I think about how I live paycheck to paycheck, and I buy groceries at one time. What if they were the same way bought groceries the day before and then we’re stuck with no money, Red Cross doesn’t come right away. They don’t always have places to go.”
Niles said she helped with the evacuation of the Village Glen complex — which included other buildings — and it broke her heart.
“I helped many elderly out as they carried their photo albums, important papers,” Niles said. “There was an elderly man. He had a walker, his personal belongings and his 14-year-old dog. All because of this one man that was doing something no one knew about. It was just way too close to home.”
Niles said the reaction of the community in the aftermath and all that they have done for the families have made her have even more respect for her hometown.
“I don’t think I’d ever want to move out of Beaver Dam now,” Niles said. “It is such a strong community.”
Niles said she is trying to find someone to organize a similar fundraiser for the victims of The Executive apartment fire earlier this month.
“I’ve never been in charge of a benefit like this, and as stressful as it can get trying to plan times to meet with people and make sure everything’s going to run smoothly, it is more than worth it,” Niles said. “I am so happy with the community. Beaver Dam is a wonderful city to raise your kids in.”