After the fire: Highland Park Improvement Club is rising; Garage Sale is proof of resilience
The tide and pace of daily events can lead to forgetting even recent news. But the Highland Park Improvement Club which suffered tremendous damage in a fire on July 1 is showing the kind of resilience that made them one of the most active and engaged organizations in Seattle.
They shared an open letter to the community last week detailing their upcoming Garage Sale and outlined ways the public can help them come back from the disaster.
HPIC is the house our community built.
A fire can't keep us down.
Nothing could have prepared any of us for waking up to such devastating news. While we share our sadness and loss with so many in this community, this moment is just a scar that will be woven into the fabric of our century-old story, and in the end will only serve to make us stronger. As we emerge from our shock, we are already focusing on how to rebuild our beloved space, as well as how we can continue to serve the community until our doors swing wide open again. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we are resilient and can adapt to the most challenging of circumstances, to still be an important presence to meet the needs of our community. Together, we’ve got this.
The cause of the fire is currently classified as “undetermined,” however evidence points to the source of the fire being external to the building and located in or near the back door alcove along the alley. We have submitted a public records request for the fire incident response reports to see if we can glean any more information. We met with our insurance adjustor this week, who will be assessing the damage in the weeks to come. Although we anticipate a partial structure teardown and complete renovation of the interior and exterior, we are grateful that this does not look to be a complete loss. The new steel beam that was recently installed (thanks to a grant from King County 4Culture) did its tremendous part to hold up our structure, as it glowed red-hot during the fire. There is so much soul in the old bones of this building, we take comfort thinking about how we can salvage the old and build the new, continuing to honor the past, while looking forward to the future.
The Board will be discussing options to maintain a gathering space while we rebuild. This will limit us to the exterior space of our property. At this time, we will discontinue our food distribution program, and will be assessing how to hold the garage sales still planned for the summer. Stay tuned for updates on any planned events. We are creative and resilient, so expect great things to come!
At this moment, here are the ways you can help:
- Donate. While we anticipate insurance covering much of the building renovation, we also will need funds to sustain the property, for creating outdoor spaces and facilities, and for covering costs that insurance doesn’t pay for.
- Volunteer. There will still be plenty of opportunities to volunteer. Whether to help with events, help tend our gardens, help plan to create additional outdoor space, or if you have services that we are looking for (construction, access to temporary structure resources etc), we continue to count on our community to help us get through this, after over a year and a half with minimal income.
- Bring your ideas. This is a moment for us to pivot (again), and look for new and creative ways to continue to support the community - without access to a building. We will continue to create space and events that are reflective of our community’s needs, so please reach out to share your ideas!
We must take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude towards so many that have wrapped their arms around the club.
- To our mighty volunteers focused on the renovations: You have poured blood, sweat and so much heart into the renovations of the club. To stand next to you, in the charred shell of a once promising space, where you have spent your evenings and weekends breathing new life into our old building, we feel your heaviness right now and are so grateful for your dedication and to have you as part of the HPIC family. Your continued support and vision will help us build back even better.
- To our committed food distribution volunteers: You have showed up, through the icy rain and sweltering heat, to provide food to our community members and friends in need for almost a year and a half. Whether you are an individual who gave of your time, an organization who provided resources, a restaurant who cooked fresh meals on-site, or you donated money to help sustain the program, you have nourished bellies and souls, and we thank you.
- To those who supported us at Decanted and donated so generously: We were rejuvenated by that event and could hardly hide our excitement about our planned re-opening to the community! We clearly are re-assessing our next steps, but please know that your contributions will go to our greatest needs, and will help us to manage during this time, until we re-open again.
- To those that have rallied around HPIC since learning about the fire: Your support means everything to us right now. We have been overwhelmed by the response, the outpouring of love, and learning what HPIC means to those in our community. Thank you for showing up the day-of with tents, coffee, ice chests, water, burritos and pizza as we held jurisdiction. Thank you to the fire fighters. Thank you to those that came out to clean up the property and later boarded up our building. Thank you for every social media comment, text, email, and for showing continued support through donations. There are no words to express our humble gratitude. Each and every message is taken to heart and restores our faith in our purpose.
We’d like to include a special thank you to one of our youngest, hardest working volunteers, Emery Winger. Emery has been showing up, alongside his dad, for most of the current renovation, bringing a work ethic and passion on par with the most experienced volunteers we have. Upon learning the news of the fire, Emery channeled his sadness into something positive and turned lemons into lemonade. We are touched by the kind and generous spirit of Emery, setting up a lemonade stand to help raise funds to rebuild HPIC, pictured here proudly representing in his 98106 T-shirt, with his neighbor and fellow fundraiser, Isabelle Sewell. The future of Highland Park, and the next generation to move HPIC forward, is very bright. We will rebuild, Emery - that is a promise.