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Man starts relief effort for fire victims

Brad Livingston sorts donated clothes at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Menahga on May 31. ANNA ERICKSON/FORUM NEWS SERVICE

MENAHGA —Brad Livingston has taken charge of a donation effort for those affected by the Green Valley Fire north of Menahga.

After the fire displaced several families and destroyed homes in May, Livingston wanted to help. He didn’t know how at first but after some prayer he found his calling.

In the days immediately after the fire May 14, which burned 7,100 acres, several of Menahga’s buildings were already being used for meetings, temporary housing or a Red Cross site.

Livingston is a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Menahga, and he and the pastor recognized a need to have a space for donations.

He has also become a resource for people and has filtered information to families about some of the other relief organizations.

Red Cross is wonderful, but each family only gets so much, Livingston said.

“So, that’s why I’m here. I’m just trying to make a difference,” he said.

Almost immediately, donations began filtering in and soon the church was already running out of room.

“Typically what we do is, people bring in donations and we separate it,” he said. “If we see something right away that we know the family has asked for, we set aside. The family can come in now or later to look at.”

He has a running list of needs each family has and has started a Facebook page, Green Valley Fire Relief Info, where he lists updates of items that are needed.

Livingston is working to create a board of directors to oversee monetary and other donations.

The most helpful donations right now are gas cards and gift cards for local businesses.

“That’s an immediate way to help,” he said. “Funding through the bank takes time.”

But all monetary donations are appreciated.

Cash donations can be brought in to the church or First National Bank of Menahga and Sebeka.

Livingston has been working nearly every day at the church collecting and organizing donations.

“I get to play Santa every day,” he said. “Someone came in and asked for just a couple cups and didn’t want to take too much. She didn’t want to be needy.”

The families who were affected by the fires are thankful for all the help, Livingston added.

“If it took all of this work to give away one pair of shoes, I would do it all again. It’s worth it,” he said.

Space is limited at the church, and people interested in donating are asked to call (218) 564-4931 or (701) 793-5271 first to determine whether there is space or a need for certain items.

“A lot of the families right now can’t come and get a lot of stuff because they don’t have a place yet,” Livingston said. “They have a storage issue, I have a storage issue.

“For example, once they finally get on their feet, I’ve got new blankets, quilts and all of that. We can start outfitting them. I can’t store furniture, but they’ll need it.”

A plan will be formulated later to decide what to do with any extra donations.

Livingston is keeping a running list of people who have larger items, such as furniture. He is asking that people hold on to those items until the families have a permanent place.

“I’m just trying to give back to the community that’s given me so much,” he said.

The Menahga C&C is also working on fundraising. It has invited local organizations to join with them to put on a community fundraising event for the victims of the Green Valley Fire. Ideas so far have included food, a silent auction, family activities, music and fun for the whole family.

The group will meet at 6:30 p.m. June 12 at the Menahga High School Media Center. The group is interested in bringing more organizations to the table. It is a regional project, so representation from organizations outside Menahga are welcome.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561