WILLOW— With a tremendous amount of support from the community, LuLu Small and Michele Stevens were able to pull a bunch of people together to hold a multifaceted fundraiser for those who looks possessions and their homes during the McKinley Fire at the Willow Community Center on Friday.
“It’s gratifying in many different ways,” Small said.
Multiple live bands performed in front of a crowd eating hot meals with ingredients that were gathered from multiple avenues in the community. Regular attendees bought meal tickets and those affected by the fire ate for free.
Two influential women from their respective fields banded together and made this whole thing happen.
Small is a longtime musician based out of Palmer and Stevens is the founder and president of Petersville Community Non-Profit Corp.
Small came up with the idea and brought it to Stevens. The two quickly got to work gathering the resources for the fundraiser.
“People have been so incredibly generous right from the get-go,” Small said.
Businesses small and large like Pizza Delphi, Costco, Great Harvest Bread Co. donated various ingredients to the meal.
“It’s all about helping each other,” Small said.
Small performed live music for evening, along with several other groups she knows well, including Blue Voodoo, Winterland, and Butch Borgen. Small said they all donated their time and for a Friday night, that’s easily $500 or so.
“That’s why I called on these particular people,” Small said.
There was a silent auction that took up several long tables, filled with a spectrum of items donated by the community. From handmade baskets to pieces of art, there was a little bit of everything.
Countless individuals contributed goods for the auction. All the proceeds from the silent auction, meal tickets, and donation jars went to the fire victims.
One Willow resident even donated a giant glass jar full of longtime savings worth over $800 to the fire victims.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Stevens said.
Loretta Land lost her three cabins, her home, her everything during the McKinley Fire. She was one of several displaced residents in attendance that evening.
“I never thought I’d lose my home,” Land said as tears welled in her eyes.
Stevens was already teary-eyed herself before hearing Land talk. The two shared a long hug.
Land said that she got all her crying out but still couldn’t hold back the tears. She said that she hated crying in public.
To have everything go out, to have one’s life essentially “erased” in an instant, it’s something Small and Stevens both said they could not imagine, but hurt to find out as they talked to the victims, both of whom knew many personally or by extension.
“I can’t fathom it,” Small said.
Land said that she’s recently talked to some local carpenters who may be able to build her a 16-by-22 cabin. She is going to talk over the details soon.
“That would be excellent,” Land said.
As people were still pouring into the fundraiser and the musicians were prepping the stage, Small went to a wooden piano used for various functions at the community center. She said she wanted to test it out and started playing “Imagine” by John Lennon. Several people in the background sang along with Small.
Contact Mat-Su Valley reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org