Getting back on Track: Community Comes Together to Help Families Who Lost Homes in July 4th Fire


It’s the little things in your house that you tend to take for granted.

Things like shampoo, a toothbrush, a laundry hamper and clothes.

When a home burns down, all those items are gone, as well.

Sixteen residential apartments were considered a total loss after a blaze was extinguished at the Traverse Woods Apartments in Petoskey on Monday.

Sarah Boucher, a resident of Petoskey, has spent the last day trying to help those who lost everything in the fire.

“My main concern is the number of children affected by this, so I called the management to try and get an idea of ages,” Boucher said.

According to Boucher, the management at the hotel said 14 adult females; four adult males; four boys ages 3, 4, 5 and 13; and three girls ages 2, 4 and 10 were displaced by the fire. One woman affected is also due to give birth in six weeks, she added.

Boucher said those interested in trying to help should consider the everyday items.

“Just look at the basic, everyday needs. They don’t have basic toiletries. Even a basic toothbrush or toothpaste. Anything that would help them return to some kind of normalcy,” she said.

Meghan Powers of the Red Cross of Northern Michigan said she and volunteers traveled from locations such as Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Traverse City, Interlochen and Wellston to help provide relief after the fire and stayed until 9 p.m. on Monday.

“We’re reaching out to all the clients to check on their needs. We’re currently looking at any possible medical needs right now, and we’ll make sure they have a place to stay,” said Powers.

The Red Cross Disaster Relief issued a press release Tuesday stating they currently have 10 open cases where they’re providing temporary shelter and financial assistance.

Those interested in donating items for the families have a number of avenues to go through to help.

The Red Cross of Northern Michigan has identified some locations that are helping to address the needs of those affected by the fire.

The Salvation Army is accepting donations for both furniture and nonperishable food items. Walmart has set up a donation setting where shoppers can purchase and drop off supplies within the store. The Petoskey Walmart has also stated in a Facebook post that the store plans to provide a donation to the families as well.

The Villa at the Bay, located off of U.S. 131 in Petoskey, will serve as a drop-off location for donations ranging from clothing, personal items, housewares and pet supplies.

The Petoskey Church of Christ on Anderson Road will also accept donations of clothing, supplies and nonperishable food.

“We’ve already got one full load of supplies and donations, with diapers, twin mattress, clothes and toys,” said Clint Cleveland, an assistant pastor at Church of Christ.

Cleveland also serves as a director of Safe Families for Children. The network of families in Emmet and Charlevoix Counties will provide a safe shelter for children of any family interested in the service as their parents try to find a more permanent option.

“These families are background checked, fingerprinted, trained, motivated by compassion and go through a home study to make sure they’re a safe family,” Cleveland said.

After the fire, housing becomes a major concern, Cleveland said. Those affected by the fire are provided a hotel room for a few nights, but after that, must find a place to stay.

First Community Bank will also set up a fund for those who lost their homes. Anyone interested in making a donation can visit one of the six First Community Bank locations and make a donation to the “Petoskey Fire Fund” said William Savard, vice president of marketing for First Community Bank.

A community group on Facebook formed, called “Help the Traverse Woods Families!” The site, which reached 655 members by Tuesday afternoon, provides a location where those who wish to donate or help can find the resources they need. Concepts for local fundraisers and ways to donate for those who lost their home continue to surface on the community page.

Diane Malkowicz of The Salvation Army in Petoskey added that while the total loss of property for these families is difficult, there’s a blessing hidden beneath the ashes.

“Everyone got out safely, that’s the most important thing. You can replace almost everything else, but you can’t replace a person. The fact that they didn’t lose anybody at that fire is a blessing,” Malkowicz said.

Source: Petoskey News