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Family begins to rebuild after devastating fire

The Waletzko family begins to rebuild their lives after a devastating fire destroyed their home. In front are Natasha (left) and Laura. Left to right in back are Dan, Sandy and Michael. <i>Submitted photo</i>

The community reacted swiftly and strongly in its outreach to the Waletzko family -- Dan, Sandy, Laura, Michael and Natasha -- who were displaced from their home after a devastating fire Tuesday night, Nov. 13.

Sandy said all family members escaped the home unhurt and were able to take shelter at her parents' home in Stillwater, Minn.

She said the family found a rental home in River Falls not far from Meyer Middle School where they moved Sunday, Nov. 18.

How to help

People can stop by or mail donations to a benefit fund at the First National Bank of River Falls, 104 E. Locust St. Direct contributions to the 'Benefit of the Waletzko Family' fund.

Schools held a fundraiser 'hat-day' this past Tuesday to help their classmates.

People from the Waletzkos work and church life, as well as total strangers, have come forward to offer help.

"We are so thankful for the outpouring of help from this wonderful community," Sandy said by email. "Please pass on our thanks, especially to UWRF, First Covenant Church, River Falls Moms & Dads Group, Treasures from the Heart, and others who all helped in getting us a temporary place to stay so quickly."

She said the hard-news story online about the fire contained a miscommunication.

Sandy says the family did not actually "decline help" from the Red Cross -- they told an emergency responder at the scene they did not need overnight shelter.

Sandy said the family would appreciate any help it could get and had been trying to contact the Red Cross.

The Waletzkos established a blog to let people know how their doing.

She said within a few days after the fire, it seemed to make sense to establish one, central place where people could get updates, learn about their needs and contact them.

The blog is located online at

The entries say the family is glad to be closer to work and school. With a new location, they were strategizing over the weekend about the new morning routine -- bus stops, walking routes and travel times.

Sandy outlines on the blog, items her family could use:

  • Blankets and comforters, preferably in some shade of blue
  • The loan or gift of a queen-size bed
  • Bath and kitchen towels, preferably in blue
  • Gift cards for food, household items and basic supplies, preferably from Wal-Mart
  • Gas cards for stations with diesel fuel.

People who want to deliver gift cards for the Waletzkos can bring them to the First Covenant Church, 1374 N. Main Street or to the Hudson Walmart, where Sandy works. She advises that she can use her employee discount to stretch Walmart gift-card dollars. The family has most of the basic kitchen items it needs except for dishrags and pot holders.

It is sleeping on borrowed beds for now and says it could use 'permanent' bed frames if anyone has twin-, full- or queen-sized frames to spare.

The family appreciates knowing if materials people give are a loan or a gift,

"We want to get borrowed items back to their owners," said Sandy in the blog.

The family has gotten some living-room furniture from Treasures from the Heart and the use of two dressers. It could use more dressers if anyone has them to donate or borrow.

Sandy says the family is responding to calls and messages as it can. The Waletzkos don't yet have an Internet connection at their rental home.

The blog lists both Dan's and Sandy's email address; they ask people to send any messages to both of them. She will be updating the blog as time allows.