Generous strangers began arriving with donations for Lake St. Louis fire victims Friday morning after the Lake St. Louis Police Officers Association put out a call for help. By five pm the community center great room at the Camden Cedar Lake Apartments was full of clothing, toiletries, bedding, towels and some dishes and food.
Strong winds fanned a fire Wednesday night that whipped through a 24 unit apartment building on Cedar Cove Trail. Four units were completely destroyed and a dozen more damaged. Fifteen families were offered shelter in vacant apartments within the complex.
Jeff Thompson, president of the Lake St. Louis Police Officers Association was coordinating the donation effort. " We're here to help everybody out that we can," he said. But when he got a look at the number and variety of donations he had one word for it, "astonishing."
Tammy Craley of the apartment complex staff said families still needed small appliances, sets of dishes and silverware, pots and pans and non-perishable food items. The Caring and Sharing Organization in Wentzville offered to provide food to families once they re-settled in apartments.
Lake St. Louis residents Paul and Betty Brauner brought clothing and toiletries. "This is what friends do. We're neighbors and when people get in trouble every body is out to help." Neighbor John Bloecher brought brand new jackets left over from a liquidation business he is closing down. "It's just been sitting at home," he said.
Diane Engberg of Lake St. Louis dropped off a bag of clothing. " I just feel bad for the people who are renting that maybe don't have insurance and lost everything ..how horrible," she said.
The Police Officers Association collected items for tornado victims in Joplin last year. " We had a ton of support from the community so anytime we have a situation like that we always reach out to the community," said Thompson as he made arrangements for storing some of the items until the fire victims need them.
"This community is not afraid to reach out and give even if they don't have a lot themselves," he added.
Donations will be accepted at the Camden Cedar Lake Apartment welcome center at 36 Cedar Lake Drive between 10am and 5pm Saturday and next Monday through Saturday. The center is open Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.