Small northern community rallies for family who lost home, business in fire
SAULT STE. MARIE -- Several people in Iron Bridge are looking to help a family rebuild its home and business after losing it in a fire.
Courtney Verhey and her family weren't home when the village's only grocery store and their home went up in flames Sunday but said they were devastated.
"I have customers that I deliver to that can't get out," Verhey said. "One of my first thoughts was of them."
Verhey said the next closest store is in Blind River - roughly 26 km from Iron Bridge.
"One of the whole reasons for buying this store was to help people," she said. "There's a lot of older people here who won't be able to make that trip though."
Despite losing her home, Verhey said the community's response has been tremendous.
Several have donated clothes, emergency items and have even offered temporary shelter.
On top of that, more than $28,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe campaign for the family as of Tuesday.
"That's one thing when you live in a small town," said Melanie Hinse, creator of the fundraiser. "Everyone wants to help everyone."
Hinse called the fire heartbreaking, both for the family and the community. It's why she said she was compelled to create the fundraising campaign but wasn't fully expecting such a resounding response.
"I initially put a post out online and it blew up," she said.
Hinse said Verhey deserved the help, after giving so much back to the community already.
"She had a small corner in her store, where she'd let smaller businesses bring their stuff to sell," Hinse said. "Anything that you needed, they would get it for you."
As for Verhey, she said she couldn't be more thankful.
"I'm just so blessed to live in this town," she said. "I love this place and I love these people."
Hinse is hoping to raise even more money for the family, who hoping to rebuild and to continue serving the community.