Communities rally to help Amherst farm, Spencer church destroyed by lightning fires
AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Two communities in western and central Massachusetts are rallying together after fires caused by lightning destroyed both J & J Farms in Amherst and the First Congregational Church of Spencer.
In the aftermath of the destruction, J & J Farms is starting the recovery effort. Meanwhile, the First Congregational Church of Spencer is still assessing the damages. Lightning strikes on June 2nd caused the pair of fires, leaving both structures in charred piles of wood and ash.
The First Congregational Church of Spencer is no stranger to this kind of destruction. The original church that was built in the 1740s also burned to the ground in 1862. A new church was built in 1863 and stood in Spencer for 160 years until the lightning strike this last Friday.
Reverend Bruce MacLeod told Western Mass News that he and his congregation are still assessing the damages, saying in part:
“We want to continue to be involved in the community and have a ministry in Spencer. What shape that will take and how we’ll do that has yet to be figured out. As to what kind of building will take place, that’s still really early in thinking about that.”
Meanwhile in Amherst, co-owner of J & J Farms Mike Waskiewicz told us that people have been showing up to lend a helping hand following Friday’s fire. In just 3 days, over $88,000 were raised for the farm on GoFundMe. Waskiewicz shared his reaction to the support he has received.
“It’s been a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth,” he said. “The support from the local neighborhood and stretching beyond, it’s just been tremendous.”
Both the church and the farm told Western Mass News that they are insured and are still awaiting word back from their insurance agencies.
Waskiewicz said that while he cleans up the damage, he still plans to run his farm stand and continue to farm vegetables that were unharmed in the blaze. He added that rebuilding their farm is in their plans, but there is still a long way to go.
“We will rebuild something,” said Waskiewicz. “We’re going to have our farm stand up and running as usual, should be around the 4th of July. As far as the rebuild, we got to discuss to see what we want, how we want to structure the rebuild, and what type of buildings, more buildings. That’s on the back burner for the time being.”
The First Congregational Church of Spencer will be holding church services at their sister church in Leicester for the foreseeable future.
If you would like to contribute to the GoFundMe in support of J & J Farms, you may do so HERE.
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