SLATER, Iowa -- The town of Huxley and its surrounding communities are still grieving after a father and son died in a house fire back on October 7th, and are finding ways to help the family in its time of need.
The American Legion Post 260, based in Slater, always donates 50 percent of their proceeds from their annual Chili Feed to an organization or charity, but this year they say it was a no-brainer where the money would go.
“Brett’s always been there for the Legion Post to help out, and definitely it’s something he would do,” American Legion Post 260 adjutant Jerad LeMaster said.
Brett VanErsvelde, a Navy veteran, was an active member of the American Legion for 14 years, five of them at the Slater post. When he was killed just two weeks ago, along with his son Daniel in a house fire in Huxley, his fellow members knew they needed to give back to his wife and two daughters who survived the tragedy.
“A tragic event like this, no one expects anything like this. So it’s the least we can do to benefit Brett and his family,” LeMaster said.
But as quickly as the idea came about, so did word of mouth.
“It’s just been astounding and overwhelming that people have been so generous. It’s a blessing to have a small community like this that supports a good family like the VanErsvelde’s,” Amber Shill, the youth group leader at the Slater United Methodist Church said.
The fundraising raffle drawing started seeing more support than ever before. Leaving the legion with no choice.
“It got to the point that the legion members said ‘we are going to give way more than half. It’s going to be anything over the normal amount that we need for the scholarships that we do,’” Shill said.
With the help from the Slater United Methodist Church and the Night Hawk Bar and Grill, an annual event turned into one the whole community will never forget.
“Everybody came and you see people just lining up,” Huxley resident Jeremy Arends said. “It just goes to show that when you see these types of needs that are out there and the hardships the families face the communities just come together and see it’s an opportunity to be an encouragement and support. So it’s been a good day.”
A good day to warm up with some chili, and warm hearts with fond memories of the ones this community lost.
“Dan was a really awesome kid,” Ballard High School special education associate Liz Peterson said. “He was very artistic. He had a lot of friends in high school, and really enjoyed life a lot. He liked to dance, have fun.”
“Brett was an upstanding individual, like i said, always willing to help out and give to one another and set himself aside,” LeMaster said.
The Legion Post 260 estimates over 400 people attended the fundraiser today and raised thousands of dollars.
If you would like to donate to the VanErsvelde family, there is an account set up for them at the South Story Bank and Trust in Slater.