MANKATO — In the aftermath of the fire that rendered their Broad Street home unlivable, the home's occupants were gathered outside, staring at the charred house and wondering what they were going to do next.
One of them said, "All we have left is the clothes on our back."
Then, whether it was luck or fate or the planets being aligned properly, something beautiful happened.
"A guy happened to be walking by," said Nikki Lewis, one of the occupants displaced by the fire. "He heard one of us say that and then he reached into his wallet and pulled out a $100 bill and gave it to us. He said, 'Here, you need it more than I do.'"
Lewis and the rest of the people who lived there are hoping that kind of luck continues as they reach out to the public for help getting back on their feet.
Lewis lived there for seven years. Another tenant, Misty Bearhill, lived there for just two weeks. She said Thursday she just recently found a place to live after living at a hotel since the fire hit in early September.
Lewis moved in with friends right away, but Bearhill needed the help of the Salvation Army and the Mankato office of the American Red Cross to get by. She's since found a place to live.
"I'm pretty much hanging by a thread," Bearhill said prior to landing housing. She used to have two jobs, but the temporary move to a hotel threw a wrench into her commute setup. She couldn't make it to one of her jobs and ended up losing it.
As for possessions, those are gone. Each tenant who lived there lost just about everything. That's why they're having a benefit on Nov. 17. They're hoping to raise money to hopefully be able to replace some of the belongings.
Lewis credits Bearhill with saving her nephew, who was sleeping at the time of the fire. Bearhill woke him up and got him out of the house; otherwise Lewis fears he may have died of smoke inhalation. Bearhill also got several pets out the house. Unfortunately, one of those pets ran back inside.
Abbie, a black Lab, was spooked by the fire trucks and ran back inside the house.
"She always hid under the bed when she was scared," Lewis said.
The cause of the fire was determined to be faulty wiring. The home sustained major fire damage to the back porch, where the blaze started, and smoke damage throughout. Bearhill and Lewis said they've been told the landlord plans to rebuild, but in the meantime, they need to move on.
An account has been established at TCF Bank in Mankato, and the benefit is at Morson Ario VFW. Proceeds will go to help them acquire basic home furnishings.
If you go What A benefit for the victims of a fire at a house on Broad Street in Mankato When 1-4 p.m. Nov. 17 Where Morson Arion VFW, 1900 N. Riverfront Drive Cost There is no cost. The event is a potluck and will include a silent auction. Contact Hollie at (507) 720-0632 for more information.