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Volunteers make sure homeless don’t miss a meal after July 4th fire

Homeless community in Mesa enjoying a hot meal at Paz de Cristo community center. (Photo by Isabel Menzel/Cronkite News)

The fire, at 4:30 a.m. Monday, was likely caused by a wiring issue in the security monitoring system, according to dining room supervisor Tammarroh Cox. Mesa fire officials are still investigating the cause but the building will not reopen for at least two months, dining room manager Danielle Ricketts said.

Although it was a holiday, volunteers, community partners and the nearby community shelter Paz de Cristo, stepped in and offered their support by serving a morning meal to the homeless.

“We’re very thankful for Paz de Cristo,” Ricketts said. “They’ve been great neighbors and friends to us for many, many years. We’re very fortunate to have them close by and to take us in.”

It was not the first time Paz de Cristo community center, which is located one block west, offered their support. A few years ago, when the air conditioning went out at St. Vincent de Paul, Paz de Cristo also opened their dining hall earlier so that the homeless would not go hungry, volunteers said.

About 10 to 18 volunteers usually help prepare and serve meals at St. Vincent de Paul but even more stepped in after the fire, according to Mary Seaman, who regularly helps out at the center.

Besides serving a hot meal from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. to the homeless in Mesa, the St. Vincent de Paul center offers medical services, job opportunities and education programs. They serve about 250 people every day, Ricketts said.

“If you’re willing to move forward, we’re willing to help you,” Cox said.

St. Vincent de Paul officials said they may need some help of their own.

“To get back on our feet, one of our hurdles is the $ 2,500 insurance deductible that we have to pay first to rebuild the building,” Ricketts said.

The center will also need to be restocked with supplies and equipment, she said. Nearby farms donate food and people donate money to support the center, he said. Officials and volunteers also maintain three gardens.

Jeff Rigg, who is homeless, has worked in the garden for several months and wants to contribute in any way possible to help with the post-fire recovery.

“We were trying to see what we could do to help with either the finances or volunteer to help with the building,” Rigg said. “I don’t know what any of us would do without the volunteers.”