HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Gateway Mission volunteers Deny and Jana Gale walk through the mission’s pantry Saturday afternoon with heavy hearts.
“I cried … I did,” said Jana as she and her husband Deny maneuvered through the shelves and around the dehumidifiers and fans working to dry out the pantry at the Gateway Mission Men’s Center on South River Avenue in Holland.
These are the shelves the retired couple help keep stocked with food that serves those who otherwise would go hungry. But their sadness is tempered by Gateway’s mission.
“It can be renewed,” said Jana. “That’s what God does. He renews lives through Gateway. And in the pantry. It will be better. “
Holland firefighters got the call just before 7 p.m. Friday for a fire at the mission.
One person was treated for smoke inhalation, but everyone else got out unharmed.
It appears a light fixture in the Mission’s pantry overheated, catching the cardboard boxes under the light to catch fire.
But not for long.
“We had a sprinkler that was 18 inches away from where the fire started. Divine intervention perhaps? We think so,” said the mission’s Interim Director Jay Riemersma.
But the water that saved the building also ruined much of the supplies needed to feed the more than 100 people who find themselves at the mission day in and day out.
That’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Water soaked the inventory before puddling on the floor. Holland firefighters did what they could to clean up the mess but the damage was done.
“Everything cardboard. All of our macaroni and cheese, all our paper products. Everything was destroyed and the health department’s saying that we’ve got to get rid of it all,” said Riemersma, who took over as interim director of the mission just a month ago.
“We think we have enough food to get through next week. But then after that, we’re going to have to replenish that stock,” he said.
The mission said it is urgently in need of food items, including boxed rice, cereal, noodles, dry milk and many other pantry staples. A list of needs and drop-off locations can be found on the mission’s website.
“Though the fire was contained and we’re thankful no one was hurt, we experienced (a) significant loss of food in our pantry during a time of year when we’re serving more of the community’s homeless than ever. We desperately need our friends to step up and replenish these food items so we can feed the more than 100 men, women and children sleeping in our shelters tonight,” Riemersma wrote in a press release.
He’s confident the community will step forward and help out. “We serve a great God. We have a very generous community here in Holland and West Michigan in particular,” said Riemersma.
— News 8’s Corinne Moore contributed to this report.