Door County community comes together to help fire victims

Posted at 10:20 PM, Dec 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-23 23:25:41-05

On Christmas Eve Eve, a group of "elves" is helping make Christmas wishes come true, aiding the victims of a fire in southern Door County who lost everything on Sunday.

"I don't know that the families know that we actually bought just about everything on their wish list," said Janel Veeser, from the town of Union where the fire took place.

"We just felt that it was necessary for us to step forward and do something," said Curt Vandertie, Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Chief.

12 people lost their homes, and everything they owned, in Sunday's fire.

"I just stopped when they said there's a fire, we all have to get out," said Catrina Foster-Pakalske, who was inside her apartment with her daughter at the time of the fire.

But on Friday, their community wanted to give them a gift, or two, or ten.

"It really enforces the community that we live in," Vandertie said. "This is not the first time that the community has stepped forward, we do have a lot of very generous people in our community."

Between the Brussels-Union-Gardner Fire Department and the community, they raised just under $10,000 in unsolicited donations to make sure the families have a Merry Christmas.

"Every time they said something, I was just in awe and amazed at how this community has come out in support of us, and it feels really good," said Foster Pakalske.

The Fire Department also honored 14-year-old Heather Hamilton, who knocked on every one of her neighbor's doors to save them from that fire.

"I was very shocked and not thinking that it's actually happening, and I'm like I need to get everybody out because their lives matter," said Hamilton.

For some of the victims, it's almost too much to take in.

"I was thinking, 'Don't cry mom because when you cry, I cry!'" said Dalena Pakalske, describing her mother's reaction to Friday's gift-giving.

All the victims had one message for the community: thank you. Because even in the face of tragedy, the Christmas spirit shines through in Brussels.