Anything to help.
Turns out there is a limit to giving, however. Indeed, so much food, clothing and furniture had arrived at the Auburn Food Bank by last Wednesday, Jan. 3, to help the 39 residents displaced by the Heritage Fire of Dec. 26 that Director Debbie Christian finally had to say “stop, we’re outta space.”
Yet, the fire also uprooted nine businesses, and their owners are out, too.
So last Thursday evening, Jan. 4, the business community, lovers of Cajun cuisine and others converged on Geaux Brewery to open their hearts and wallets for businesses like Henry’s Home Plate Tavern, Farmer’s Insurance and U-Float.
Augmenting work the City is already doing in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration, people made cash donations that could be used to purchase items and help businesses with relocation costs in the near future.
All proceeds were turned over to the food bank, which will distribute them as needed.
“It’s really a collaboration, a partnership of all the businesses in the downtown district,” explained Julia Jordan, COO of the Auburn Area Chamber of Commerce. “They are like a family, and because part of the family has been burnt out downtown, a lot of our businesses decided they wanted to help the other businesses. Auburn is so generous, we give until it hurts.”
A head count at 7:30 p.m. turned up 117 people, four short of the restaurant’s capacity.
“This is the first time I’ve heard people complain that they can’t find parking out there,” said Geaux owner Jeremy Hubbell, between pouring beers, selling raffle tickets and checking in on spirited games of air hockey. “This is all came together in the last 48 hours. It’s amazing how quickly the community came together.”
That Thursday was also the regularly scheduled gathering of the business community, the 3No Network series, at the brewery helped, too.
“There’s no program, no speakers, no pressure, just a place for businesses to get together and meet, maybe do deals, whatever. With this issue we trying to do good to help the businesses that were lost in the Heritage Fire,” said Doug Lein, economic director for the City of Auburn. “Jeremy stepped forward for tonight, and Saturday … a similar fundraiser (was) at Vinifera (Wine Bar & Bistro) on Auburn Way South, so two businesses stepped up to help out.”
Happy to help out were Auburn residents Tony and Linda Romano.
“It was sad to see the building and the people’s low-income housing and stuff go up in flames, and the loss of all those businesses. It strikes home,” Tony Romano said.
“I am really happy to see business step up and come out to support the community overall,” Linda Romano added.
Taryn Hornby, a business advisor at Green River College, took home a Geaux Brewery Hoody.
“I think this is really nice, coming from a big city, this has a small-town feel,” Hornby said.
Mayor Nancy Backus was beaming.
“The outpouring we’ve seen since the fire has been amazing., and that’s definitely a testimonial to Auburn,” Backus said. “We had to stop collecting clothing and furniture, but monetary contributions are always welcome. People here might not have known about Geaux Brewery and the generosity of businesses who are able do something. The Quarters and Longhorn Barbecue did an event on Saturday.
“Out of the ashes something good has come,” she said.
Hubbell said the event at Geaux Brewery raised about $2,000.