Community helps church after Friday fire set back open house plans

An East Tennessee church isn't letting a Friday night fire stop them from giving back to the community. Iglesia Cristiana Restauracion donated food and clothing to people in need this weekend. But Friday night's fire set them back before the big event.

It was set to be an open house weekend to remember. Then came the fire. Pastors Josue and Jessica Cueto are now cleaning up the mess that an electrical fire started.

"The first thing that came to my mind was not the church catching on fire, but the food we were going to donate. The clothing that all these people were expecting," said Jessica.

The church signed it's lease on May 1st. One day later, it's in flames. Tracie Rodgers saw the fire from her home. She lived in that neighborhood for more than 50 years. And said that church building has been a second home to her.

"It took all my might to get my words out to call Garfield Wilson to tell him his building was on fire and my heart just broke and I broke out to tears when I finally got it out," said Rodgers.

Now, walls are smoke damaged, computers are fried, and the prepared donations were lost in the fire. With less than a day until the event, the Cuetos had to find a way to serve hundreds of people with no inventory and no second thoughts.

"I saw all the food. There was just so much food and clothing. Everything was destroyed. And she said don't worry about it. I want to have it. And I said we will do what we have to do," said Willie Wilson, owner of the building.

But the community came through. This congregation was helped by Foster Chapel. And when they heard about the fire, they began to rally the troops and bringing donations.

Second Harvest showed up with a truckload of donations as well.

"All these people were showing up at 6 in the morning bringing in tables, chairs, the sound. And people beside the church, the houses beside. They are being so grateful to us," said Josue.

A community effort that helped bring a church's spirits back out of the ashes.

Cueto said they are working on plans to rebuild but it could take months to finish. They plan to hold services outside in the meantime under a tent.


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