Community aids nonprofit’s recovery after arson

News

LOWELL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Barn for Equine Learning has made great strides after suffering a devastating fire in April.

Sunday will mark six months since 13 horses housed on the Lowell Township property were killed in an early morning arson. The horses were used in therapy for kids and teens who have experienced trauma or abuse. Last month, Payton Mellema pleaded guilty to starting the fire. He’s expected to be sentenced later this month.

Despite the emotional pain that came with the fire, the Barn has accomplished a lot in rebuilding. A new structure now sits in the old barn’s place. When it’s finished, it will house 14 horses — an expansion from the previous 12 stalls.

“We were going and it was taken away from us, but now seeing it going up and thinking about the programming and the community coming out and supporting us, it’s awesome,” director Kat Welton told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.

One of the volunteers who has stopped by to lend a hand since the fire is James Oswald. He was also the first firefighter on scene the morning of the fire.

“We have a very strong community and they all showed their support. I’m just a small part of all the help that’s been out here, a very small part. Probably hundreds of people have been here,” Oswald told 24 Hour News 8. “… Kat, (her husband) B.J. and their family work so hard here. Every bit of energy they put into it hopefully comes back to them a hundredfold.”

Many Lowell and Kent County groups have helped get the Barn for Equine Learning to where is it now. Those looking to help can donate to the Barn’s GoFundMe page. Barn leadership also posts on Facebook about specific supplies they need.

Those interested in volunteering at the nonprofit can call 616.690.0646.

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