It is a tragedy that has touched our community this year.
On March 27th, 2013, a deadly fire killed five people in rural Sherrard, Illinois. Nearly five months later, there is a unique effort happening at Arrowhead Ranch in Coal Valley, Illinois to help the survivors.
It started with Arrowhead’s Wood Shop Teacher, Dean Koepke, whose wife knew Anna Viager, the mother who died in the fire. Dean says Anna’s husband, Wayne, would bring him firewood and approached him when he started building a new house, which he showed to News 8 in June.
“He asked if I would build the cabinets for his new house and I said I would be happy to,” says Dean, who has worked with at-risk youth at Arrowhead Ranch for nearly three years. “Then I got thinking that this would be a good project for the kids to do as a community service project.”
On Thursday, August 22nd, 2013, News 8 visited Arrowhead’s Wood Shop to see how the project was going and meet some of the students behind the drilling, sanding, and staining.
“When I first came here, I didn’t really like being in Wood Shop, only because it was something new to me that I have never done before,” says Jack, a 14-year-old who has been at Arrowhead Ranch for about eight months. “However, I think it’s a really nice thing that we can help them.”
For Jack and others at Arrowhead, projects like the cabinets are also helping them get through their own experiences.
“When I was really, really little and I didn’t have my own home to go to, I didn’t like that feeling at all,” says 16-year-old, Xavier. “I didn’t like the fact that we had to go and ask for help and people didn’t offer the help to us. This family lost all their belongings so now that we can actually give back and give them something to remember us by remember their family by… that’s a great thing for me to feel inside.”
“The best thing is when they get done with a project and they show it to you and they say – ‘Wow, I made this with my own hands,’ describes Dean. “That’s the best paycheck you can get.”
Dean says he plans to have the cabinets done by next week and hopes to bring a couple students with him to meet Wayne when they install them in the house.