‘Devastated’: Gastonia rescue mission struggles to reopen after fire shutters doors

GASTONIA, N.C. — After a fire broke out last weekend, the doors of the Gastonia Street Ministry has been shut. Now, its operators are struggling to reopen.

The rescue mission fed and provided supplies for people in the street in Gastonia. On Friday, Gaston County reported Ken Lemon talked to organizers about the damage and the salvage operation. The problem is the building is insured by the property owner, but the contents inside are not.

The operators of the mission told Lemon almost everything they raise or collect goes to people in need. The house manager took Lemon into the kitchen, a place where they made meals for as many as 50 people a day. Now, it’s the mission that needs help.

At first, people looking from the outside didn’t know about the fire.

“For people to come by and ask for things we can’t really give them is kind of heartbreaking,” said Daryl Freeman, the house manger.

It’s painful for patron Steven Stackhouse too.

“It’s sad, really,” he said.

Stackhouse and his fiancée are living on the street. He says the Gastonia Street Ministry was their refuge.

“It was a blessing having them help us,” Stackhouse said.

Those blessings ended Friday night. Investigators told Lemon the fire started with equipment in the kitchen while the mission was closed. Mission operators said the whole place should have been destroyed but the flames melted a PVC water pipe, which helped put some of it out.

“It’s kind of a divine intervention,” Freeman said.

But the smoke damage destroyed the food and many of the items used to fill blessing bags. Those bags were made of clothes and other items that people living on the street need.

“Just kind of devastated really,” Freeman said.

Estimates for repairs range between $50,000 to $80,000, so the mission is putting the word out asking some of their supporters to help. They’re struggling to help themselves and they are about to run out of the few items they can give away.

“We’ve got people out here, you know, they ain’t got anything and this is where they come to get it,” Freeman said.

They worry that the mission that has kept the doors open for 25 years may be shut down for a long time.

There are other groups in the Gastonia area helping people with nowhere to go, but people working in those groups tell Lemon the need for more help is steadily growing.

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