Organizations, businesses helping West Wind fire victims

BUCHANAN, Mich. -- It’s been days since a fire at West Wind Apartments destroyed an entire building of units and there are still many questions about its cause, as residents search for a new place to live and replacements of their lost belongings.

Lily Shafer was at work when a neighbor called to tell her their apartment was on fire.

Her first thought was her dog, Koaldust – neighbors couldn’t get him out in time and Shafer was left wondering for hours if he’d been lost during the fire.

“As I was coming back someone said ‘Oh, they found a dog,’ so it looks like he must have been hiding somewhere in the apartment, my patio door had shattered so I don’t know if it was a rush of air that he smelled, but he did make it out on the patio,” said Shafer.

Since the fire, which destroyed 30 units, the community has come together in full force to help those 46 residents who lost everything.

Leading the charge – granting organization Michigan Gateway Community Foundation.

“We have robust ability to accept donations and provide transparency and ensure that all the people affected get every dollar of this,” said Michael Rowland, President & CEO. “We knew this was something that was going to overwhelm our partners like Redbud Area Ministries (RAM), Red Cross.”

Gateway helping direct donors to RAM, which has been flooded with generosity – gathering clothes, food and bedding for anyone impacted. People can also donate on Gateway's website.

A local brewery, River Saint Joe, will even be donating a dollar of every beer sold to the cause all weekend.

“I’m excited to join forces with them on this, it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon, especially when it’s something that can help our neighbors,” said Rowland.

As for West Wind Residents, they’re thankful for the community stepping up, because this week could have felt very different. 

“Any of the resources I have been made aware of have been through family or friends, the apartment has not reached out to help us in any way, give us any idea of relocation, so that doesn’t feel very good as a long time tenant,” said Shafer.

The Michigan Gateway Community Foundation is compiling an email list of residents hit by the fire so they can keep them up to date on when aid is coming.

A family member also created a GoFundMe for Shafer to help her with replacing items and finding a place to live. Shafer said she plans to share any money raised with fellow residents as well as information regarding available homes.

As for the cause of the fire, ABC57 reached out to Buchanan Township Fire for an update and has not heard back.

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