Pay It Forward salutes Wataga business planning to rebuild following fire

WATAGA, Illinois - -A Knox County couple knows all about helping others.  But after a devastating fire at their business, they need some helping hands to bounce back themselves.

The McCormick family discovers a sense of hope from a sad scene at 114 North Depot Road.

"Bigger and better," said Katie Jern, who literally grew up with her sister, Marcie Erickson, at Jimmy's Pizza.

There are lot of memories in the rubble at the business owned by their parents, Jimmy and Debbie McCormick.

"It was kind of like going home and having your mom make you something," Marcie continued.  "It was just normal life."

That normal life now turned upside down at the longtime eatery.  A shock for Jimmy and Debbie, who were used to hosting everything from baby showers to graduation celebrations.

"There's just days we feel a little sad," Debbie said.  "I'm holding onto a building that is supposed to be a building.  But it was what I did and who I was."

That identity going up in smoke on a very unlucky June 13.

"It was one of the toughest times in our lives," she continued.

An electrical fire claiming the century-old building that had also once been a bank and grocery store.  The McCormicks, who've operated the pizza parlor for 24 years, must start from scratch.

"Baby steps," said Jimmy McCormick.  "One step at a time."

Now, this caring community, which always counted on the McCormicks, is returning the favor.

"They were always the first in line to say, 'What can we do?'" said customer Lori Nyman.  "I just felt like I wanted to do something."

Reason enough for Nyman to step into action and present them with a Pay It Forward award worth $300.

"Jim and Debbie have done countless things in the Wataga community, and it's a wonderful  thing to see the Wataga community rally together to help them out," said Megan Guldenpfennig, who presented the award from Ascentra Credit Union.

For a family raised to give back to others, they're already thinking of ways to help their displaced employees.

"It's our chance to Pay It Forward, too," said Jimmy.

While photos and memories are all that's left of Jimmy's Pizza, they'll pick up the pieces and plan to rebuild on the original site in Wataga.

"I think about it a lot," said Katie.  "It's going to be weird because that was part of Jimmy's, the old building."

Still, the possible return of Jimmy's Pizza in six to nine months could be a great Christmas gift to the community.

"I'm excited," Marcie said.  "I can't wait to see what it's going to look like."

The sisters will be pitching in with a golf tournament, cut-a-thon and bracelets to raise money.

A new Jimmy's Pizza will be worth the wait.

"The future's great," Debbie concluded.  "It will be perfect.  It will be great."

It will be great for a family that already gives so much in Wataga.