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Holland shelter's entire food supply replenished just days after fire: 'Praise God'

A West Michigan emergency shelter is feeling a torrent of support from their community after a fire destroyed most of their food supply last Friday.

HOLLAND, Michigan — A West Michigan emergency shelter is feeling the love from their community after a fire destroyed most of their food supply last Friday.

“This is an unbelievable story," said Interim Executive Director Jay Riemersma. 

Over the last week, Riemersma says Gateway Mission in Holland has had their hands full.

“It’s been a whirlwind of activity here at the Mission," he explained. "Our team here, while tired, have been accommodating some of the mess that we have downstairs, and really did a phenomenal job."

The fire broke out in their basement pantry due to a faulty light fixture. It happened right next to a sprinkler system, which extinguished the flames and kept all the residents sleeping upstairs safe – but created a new problem.  

“The water just destroyed about 30 to 35 pallets of food," Riemersma said.

The health department said most of the waterlogged food is inedible. Boxes full of hard-earned donations went straight into the trash. 

Still, his team didn’t miss a beat in serving the 120 guests in their care who needed warm meal.  

“We got up and running the very next morning and had breakfast," he said, smiling.

Over the next week, staff emptied the pantry and cleared the flooding to make room for a new beginning.  

“We have had an outpouring of support from our community like you wouldn't believe," Riemersma said. "Praise God.” 

Thanks to an influx of donations, they replenished their entire pantry in just a matter of days.   

Riemersma says the fire was a chance to prove what kind of community they’re a part of. 

“When you show a need, and you are a trusted entity, which I think Gateway Mission is, people respond," he said.

It’s the kind of community that helps others who have fallen down – but this comes as no surprise to him. 

“That's West Michigan. That's how we handle ourselves.” 

Gateway Mission is now checking the entire building's electrical system for their residents' safety while paying off bills from the cleanup. If you’d like to donate to help, you can do it through their website here


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