Fire leaves L.S. family homeless

—Community steps up to help Ruggebergs after loss
LIME SPRINGS - The Lime Springs Fire Department  was dispatched to a house fire on Grant St. at about 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.
Chief Scott Osmundson stated, “On scene, we found heavy smoke and flames coming from the north side of the house. No one was home at the time.”
The fire took about four-and-a-half hours to fully put out and is considered to be a total loss. 
The department received mutual aid from Chester Fire, Cresco Fire, Regional Health Services of Howard County Ambulance and Howard County Emergency Management.  
No one was injured, but the family did lose three dogs in the fire. Michelle Ruggeberg stated it was an electrical fire that started by the kitchen refrigerator.
That could be the end of the story, but it’s not.
Nobody was home during the fire because Derrick and Michelle Ruggeberg were both celebrating upcoming nuptials of two different family members.
Derrick was in Mille Lacs Lake, Minn. at a bachelor party for his brother, and Michelle was in Cedar Falls helping her brother’s future wife pick out a wedding dress, when they got news of the fire. Their three children were at Michelle’s other brother’s home.
Later, the family was at Michelle’s best friend’s house, Megan Speer. Jami Schwickerath (a cousin of Speer) stopped by to offer her support to the family. 
While there, the middle child told her, “Hi. My name is Hazel. My house burned. They let me in to be warm and watch cartoons, and I could see the house burn.”
“For some reason, that stuck with me,” Schwickerath said. “I wondered what I could do to help them.”
She knew the family had lost everything. “The kids needed clothes. I texted a few friends who had kids. That went out at 10:30 that night.”
She couldn’t sleep that night and by morning had more of a plan. At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, she was making plans to have clothes brought to the Lime Springs Community Center, with members of the Community Club and others jumping in to help. 
Toiletry items, groceries and daily living items were added to the list. IN addition, all the kids’ Christmas presents were lost so a call went out for Barbie dolls, Nerf gun and more
A group of individuals met to come up with a bigger plan — Ronda and Jarry Hughes, Matt Leverson, Dawn Fairbanks, Bev Johnson, Schwickerath and others.
By Sunday afternoon, tables at the Community Center were full of clothing, sorted by size, and other items. Michelle and her family came to pick out things they could use. “They were crying, I was crying. They were so appreciative,” Schwickerath said. 
Michelle told her, “This is why we live in Lime Springs and why we’ll never leave. The community caring has been unbelievable.”
The Mennonite segment of the community also offered help of food and clothing. Schwickerath said, “Their teacher is also going to use this as a way to educate students about fire safety, exit plans and helping those in need.”
In less than 24 hours, Schwickerath received donations or pledges from Special Needs Association, Junior and Senor Community Club and Crestwood PTO for school supplies. An account has been set up at CUSB Bank for tax deductible cash donations. [A GoFundMe account was set up before the embers were cool, but that organization does take a portion of the donations.]
Some individuals gave their accumulated commissions from Unique Boutique to the family. ???? of LS Tap, which just opened on Jan. 5, and KCDs offered to have a night for partial food sales to go to the family.
Flying Hoofs 4-H Club donated blankets to the Sheriff’s Department for those in need, several of which were given to the family.
Another need is homecooked meals, either frozen or fresh. That will leave one less thing for the family to worry about. Food and other items can be dropped off at the Community Center from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 
Currently, the Ruggebergs are staying with her brother, Austin Hrdlicka and Madi Fitzgerald. There are several feelers out to find them a temporary home.
In a social media post, Michelle thanked the community. “Words cannot express the gratitude we feel for all of the support and kindness everyone has shown. It’s a privilege to be a part of such a strong and compassionate community of friends, family, neighbors and selfless individuals. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!”

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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