ONLY ON KDLT: Church Helps Man Rebuild After House Fire

Strangers become friends thanks to social media

Imagine losing almost everything you own in a fire and having no way to replace it.  That was the reality for one man in western Sioux Falls.  But, he’s going to get his home back thanks to a group of strangers who he can now call his friends.

“I initially looked at this and thought ‘This is a loss, I don’t know how we’re gonna rebuild what you’ve got here,’” says volunteer Wade Kellenberger.

That was Wade’s reaction when he first met a man who lost part of his mobile home in a fire.  The man, named Jim, didn’t want to speak on camera, but he was working with a group of volunteers from Central Church Saturday to tear down the damage at his home.

“There was a fire on January 28.  They determined it was started by a candle that got knocked down.  No one was home, fortunately, but it did cause severe damage.  And so Jim didn’t have insurance at the time,” Wade explains.

Leading up to the fire, Jim was self-employed doing woodworking, but a lot of his inventory was damaged in the fire.  Wade says Jim doesn’t have enough money to make repairs to his home.  But, now he won’t have to worry about that thanks to the kindness of others.

“It just took shaking his hand and looking him in the eyes to know, ‘If I don’t do something, I don’t know that anybody else will,’” Wade says.

Jim, Sioux Falls resident who lost part of his mobile home in fire

A few weeks ago, Wade saw a Facebook post about Jim’s situation.  He went out to the home on Thad Place and met Jim in person.

“He was so prideful in what he had and what he owned and it was all paid for and he had done so many things over the years.  He had showed me many things that he added to it or added with his own bare hands and just really wanting to be here.  And so it kind of changed from ‘Can we find a replacement to, how can we rebuild this for him?’”

Wade gathered up volunteers from his church to do the demolition work.

Organizer & volunteer Wade Kellenberger

“I have a construction background, electrical and contracting background, so I’m able to use that knowledge and those skills, bring those to the table and make sure things are happening safely, that’s a big part of it is we want to make sure everybody’s being safe,” says fellow volunteer and church member Joel Westrum.

Rebuilding the home will cost at least $9,000 for materials and professional labor.  Wade is working with organizations and businesses like Central Church and the Sioux Falls Firefighters Association to collect donations and restore a big part of Jim’s life at no cost to him.

“Jim asked me the question, ‘Why are you doing this, I don’t deserve this,’ and I said ‘Jim, honestly, does anybody deserve what we have?’  He was just very humbled… and we’ll get him back into his home as soon as we can,” Wade says.

Wade says even with the bad weather expected in the coming days, he’s hoping to get this project done in two weeks.

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