Locals come together to unify a community hit by arson
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -What was once the Community Center, The Pleasant Valley Free Store, the Historic Grange Hall, and a staple on Chena Hot Springs Road, The Two Rivers Lodge, are among those devastated from the recent arsons in Two Rivers, Alaska.
Bob Sugden, pastor with the Two Rivers Church of the Nazarene and board member with the Pleasant Valley Community Association, says for the 18 years he has lived in Two Rivers there has always been a small town feel, where you know everybody and you feel safe.
“Then all of a sudden that was taken from us, and we had to be very careful. There was almost this sense of suspicion about everybody and everything and that was really difficult because it changed the climate here, it changed the culture here,” said Sudgen.
With the alleged arsonist in custody, the community has banned together to rebuild from the ground up, helping neighbors out any way they can.
“We have had three months of vigilance, and anxiety, concern, worry, and it’s like woah we can finally breathe,” he added.
Before the fires, Don and Virginia Mckee, one of the victims of the arsons, had a new home in the works but wanted to take it slow.
“Donald just asked me what do you think about building a new house? He said for us a forever house for us, and I said I am 60, and he goes we’ll go real slow,” Mckee said.
Then the house they lived in was targeted.
“It (building the new house) kind of got shortened a little bit. But again thank you to all of the help. And so we just yeah, things got speeded up quite a bit.” she said thankfully.
Mac lebeau, son of Virginia wanted to help but was struggling with how he could help not only his family, but others in the community. Lebeau said coming up with a graphic and logo for the shirts was difficult because all the could think of was flames. He decided that he did not want fire and flames to encompass what he was trying to do with the shirts.
“I wanted to help, and one way I knew I could help was, I could make t-shirts to sell and all the money could go to the cause, and to the victims, “said Lebeau.
Since Two Rivers t-shirts have come out, Lebeau says it has given the community a saying that brings them closer together.
“I’ve had so many people that have said, this Two Rivers Strong, has given them the courage to continue, to continue to rebuild,” Lebeau said.
Lebeau said he is not looking for any recognition in regards to the shirts, but knowing that the community has thanked him, is a very good feeling.
Two rivers strong shirts are available online at spotteddogprints.com or purchased at the Two Rivers Outpost in the café.
Beyond the shirts, the community is in need of dumpsters, volunteers and other resources. You can reach out to them at tworiversstrong.org.
There will be a community celebration in honor of the victims Saturday, September 11, 2021 at the Two Rivers Lodge and a silent auction Saturday, September 25, 2021 at the Badger Den in North Pole.
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