PROPHETSTOWN – On the back table of the Prophetstown Main Street office lay 17 checks. And just across the street, construction crews were filling in a hole where one of eight downtown buildings destroyed by fire once stood.
By 9:50 a.m. Monday, five of those checks had been picked up by victims of the July 15 fire who lost their home, business or property. This round of checks was the result of T-shirts sold by Kate Fisk and Jamie Mosher – about 2,300 T-shirts raised $21,000.
Prophetstown has a population of less than 2,100.
Fisk and Mosher sold the T-shirts through a Facebook page. They ordered 2,100 to start, but expected to sell only 50 or so. By the second day, they said, the sale had taken off. The weekend after the Monday fire, they had sold 1,000.
One of those T-shirts was sent to Korea, to a former foreign exchange student who went to school with Fisk during the 2006-07 school year. She found out about the fire and the fundraiser through Facebook, the only promoting that Fisk and Mosher did.
“We’ve sent to South Carolina, Florida, a lot to Arizona,” Fisk said. “To just about every state, pretty much.”
For now, the T-shirt sales are done. There’s $1,000 left, which will be used to order hooded sweatshirts, Fisk said, to continue the fundraiser into the fall.
“Especially with football, I think it would be really cool to go to a game and see nothing but orange sweatshirts,” Fisk said. “And that’s part of the colors, the high school and city colors.”
Dolores Francis was the sixth person to pick up her check. She had owned D’s Variety and Crafts for 35 years.
Francis lost everything except her car and what she was wearing when she ran out of her building July 15, after she was awakened by a firefighter.
“It was torched,” she said of her building. “[The fire] came down through the roof and destroyed all my personal property. And if I hadn’t gotten out of there, I would’ve been crisp.”
Francis is now living in an apartment in Prophets- town. She’s still working and making hand-painted glass ornaments and origami from sheet music, among other items, but said she won’t reopen her business. She can make her crafts from her new apartment, she said.
“I don’t want it to slow down,” Francis said. “I mean, I was going to retire some day, but not this way.”
She has furniture in her apartment, and the donation checks have helped her put her life back together. She’ll have to buy winter clothes soon, because what she had was lost in the fire.
Prophetstown took control of the eight lots and will give them to developers or the former building owners that want to rebuild. Francis won’t be among them, but she wants whatever is there to bring people into town for a positive reason.
“I want things to be here that are good for Prophetstown and bring business here – bring people to town that want to come here for a reason,” she said. “The town has been hurt by all of this, tremendously. And we need businesses that are going to bring people to town.”
Cindy Eriks, owner of Cindy Jean’s Restaurant, picked up a check Monday. But it’s not the first check she’s received since the fire. Strangers and customers have been mailing her checks since the fire, some with $50 and some with $100 or more, she said.
The money she’s received in the mail and on Monday will help to defray some of the cost of the cleanup. Her insurance covered only $10,000 toward that cost, she said.
The hardest thing for Eriks during the past 2 months has been grieving over the loss of personal and sentimental items, but she’s getting better.
“I’ve come to the realization that at least I have the picture in my mind of what it was that my grandmother had given me or great-grandmother,” she said. “Although we do have the three quilts my great-grandmother made. They are burnt on the outside. The inside squares are OK, so I’m going to take it somewhere and get one quilt made out of it.”
One of the first items she found that wasn’t destroyed was a framed Bible verse – Jeremiah 29:11 – about God providing a plan.
Her son’s guns were destroyed, Eriks said. “His big Bible, it’s burnt around the edges. And you open it up and you can read it clear as day. To me, that was a sign from God that that’s what was important.”
Two brothers were arrested the day after the fire and later charged with arson, residential arson, and 14 counts of criminal damage to property, all felonies. The boys, 16 and 12 years old, are due back in court Oct. 8. Police say the fire was sparked after the boys set fire to paper and cardboard in a recycling bin behind Cindy Jean’s.
Eriks said she wants the boys to be treated as if they were her children or grandchildren.
“It’s very important that they’re backing these kids up,” Mosher said from a seat in the Main Street office, not more than 100 feet from where the fire raged. “Because being negative toward them is not going to help with their future at all. I’d say 90 percent of the town is backing them and supporting them.”
How to help
- Prophetstown has set up a fund, "Rebuild Prophetstown Strong," to help clean up and rebuild the downtown. Donations can be made to Farmers National Bank branches in Prophetstown, Geneseo and Morrison, as well as IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union locations, one of which is in Prophetstown.
- Tampico residents Kate Fisk and Jamie Mosher sell "Support Prophetstown" hoodies for $30. To order or get more information, call 815-766-0732.