EUGENE — Despite a fire that did an estimated $300,000 damage earlier this summer to the kitchen in the Eugene Mission, the ministry has continued to feed and house hundreds of people daily, thanks to prompt and big help from the community.
The cause of the June 16 fire, which completely destroyed the ability to prepare or serve the usual 750 meals the mission provides each day, was determined to be some rags soaked in cooking oil that spontaneously combusted after being stored in a plastic container.. As reported by the Register-Guard newspaper, the fire was ruled accidental by Eugene-Springfield Fire.
The mission immediately collected packaged foods and set up grills on which to cook food until the kitchen is rebuilt. Meals were served during the first week behind the mission’s food warehouse in an outdoor, makeshift picnic area.
The mission then set up a rented 53-foot mobile kitchen across the street. Western Shelter Systems provided a serving tent, Market of Choice grocery loaned a refrigerator truck and a temporary dining hall was located in the mission’s warehouse.
The fire was reported at 2:06 a.m., The mission, which can house more than 400 homeless people, had 212 occupants at the time, and all of them escaped safely thanks to properly functioning fire alarms, a fire suppression door and evacuation procedures at the shelter.
The mission sought donations of foods, including sandwich bread, lunch meat, cereal, canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be cooked.
The kitchen equipment was insured, but because the equipment was old, any insurance payment will not fully cover the cost of new equipment. The mission is seeking monetary donations to help build the new kitchen and to cover other related expenses.
Two days after the fire, a food truck dining festival at Valley River Center that was previously scheduled as a fundraiser for the mission was still held, attracting a huge turnout — an estimated 13,000 people.
The 28 participating food carts donated 10 percent of proceeds to the mission. A total of $45,000 was raised through the event.
Jack Tripp, the mission’s executive director, said he was brought to joyful tears by the prompt generosity of the community following the fire.
Among the donors was Northwest Community Credit Union in Eugene, with a $10,000 gift. Eugene-based Bi-Mart delivered a truckload of canned goods, nutrition bars and other supplies.
Later gifts included $15,000 from Wells Fargo and $15,600 from Goodwill Industries.
“The Lane County community responded in a big way and our hearts are humbled,” Tripp wrote in a mission newsletter. “We truly do see beauty replacing the ashes.”
In the newsletter, Tripp invited continued support to help the mission recover from the blaze.
“Though we do have fire insurance, it is possible to incur hundreds of thousans of uninsured expenses between the rebuild and our emergency operational costs,” Tripp wrote.
For more information on mission needs, go to EugeneMission.org