Volunteers work to still assist homeless despite fire at OC shelter

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A devastating fire swept through an organization for the homeless in Orange, and now volunteers are working together to help the facility recover. (KABC)

A devastating fire swept through an organization for the homeless in Orange, and now volunteers are working together to help the facility recover.

Workers repaired damage at Mary's Kitchen -- the place that helps more than 1,000 people a week --now red-tagged.

"We cannot be in the building, so we have to have food brought in," said Gloria Suess, Mary's Kitchen Board of Directors CEO.

Authorities said the fire broke out around 7 p.m. on Friday outside the building in the back, near the railroad tracks. The place is located at 517 W. Struck Avenue.

Flames destroyed a wall, the covered patio and a number of refrigerators and freezers filled with food.

"We're hoping it opens up as soon as possible," said Gregory Gavino, who recently started coming to Mary's Kitchen.

The program relies on donations. It's run by volunteers who now pack lunches instead of cooking meals in the kitchen.

As SoCal Edison worked to try to restore power, many homeless people, who showed up for other services such as a place to wash their clothes and a hot shower, wondered where to go.

"We all depend on this," said Angie Castillo, who sat on the grass with her friend outside the now gated property. "A lot of us come here for the showers and the meals."

"They give you clothes, they get you healthcare and everything," said Damon Wesson, who has relied on the services for the past year.

About a dozen volunteers handed out bagged lunches as nearly two dozen people lined up. Officials said they'll pick up food prepared elsewhere for a hot lunch on Tuesday at the usual time - 12:45 p.m.

Suess said to replace the damaged equipment and get the kitchen running again, it could cost at least $150,000, but that's an early estimate.

She said they're still assessing the damage and until they can get the power back on and the equipment cleaned up, it's hard to tell what's still working.

So far, Suess said the fire department told her the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

"Nobody was hurt, nobody was here," said Suess. "Anything we lost can be replaced," although she added it will take financial donations.

Volunteers remained hopeful to soon get back to normal -- back in their kitchen, serving breakfast, a hot lunch and a sack meal to go. But exactly when that will be was still unknown.

Suess said she hoped to have showers available in a few days. An Outreach event scheduled for Saturday was still planned outside the building.

Donations can be made through Mary's Kitchen at www.maryskitchen.org.
Related Topics:
societybuilding firefirehomelessvolunteerismcharityOrangeOrange County
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