The email to the Marengo-Union Times told us there was a “man who fed dinner to the homeless families every night for a week.” Curt Shaklee, the email said. This I wanted to investigate.

“I didn’t do that,” Curt said. “You should talk to my wife, Jennifer.”

Is she the one who fed all those people every night for a week? “Not at all!” Jennifer laughed. “Curt and I just happen to live in the right place and we both wanted to do whatever we could to help our neighbors. Someone asked us to do one simple thing and it just grew from there.”

Their very near neighbors were victims of the gas explosion on 7th Circle in Marengo on June 11, 2017. In fact, the Shaklee home is so near, that it sustained some minor damage. However, their home has a garage and driveway facing the scene of the leveled and badly damaged houses. On Monday morning, the day after the explosion, Marengo Convenient Mart wanted to donate water and soft drinks but needed a place to put them. Could they use the Shaklee garage?

Jennifer went on social media to enlist help from friends and family to get the garage cleared out. Now the word was out! Lots of people wanted to help, but didn’t know where. Lots of places wanted to help with food, but how could they get it to the affected families?

Many families also lost their cars. All had to stay with their property as they waited for inspectors and insurance adjustors. They had no place to wait and couldn’t go far from their damaged homes.

Well, the water was coming to the Shaklee garage, why not everything else? And why just the garage? Why not the driveway, the yard and the house?

The complexity of losing so many homes with so many different needs became more and more evident. However, the number and variety of companies and individuals who wanted to help grew too. Ripple effect.

The many small children in affected families were swept into the Zion Lutheran summer day camp program—a safe place to have fun and a God send to all those parents. Think of all those home freezers with food spoiling! Joe’s Place offered freezer space. Volunteers went house to house and emptied freezers and trucked everything down there. Local grocery stores and restaurants provided fresh food. It all arrived at the Shaklee home. Jennifer and the ever-growing ring of volunteers made stacks of sandwiches and cut up bowls of fruit.

Curt even set up a “station” of iPhone and android chargers for people to use. Home owners and renters, insurance adjustors, fire inspectors and police all came to the Shaklee house for a cold drink, a sandwich, a few minutes in air conditioning, a charge for their phones. Food arrived every morning for breakfasts for many who had to be there early. Lunches and dinners were always served. Every day from Tuesday until Sunday.

People talked. People cried; they got a chance to laugh and think about other things than their houses. People who wanted to help found the people who needed help. Everything was and is channeled through the MORE food Pantry, but for those critical days when homeowners couldn’t easily go to get help, help came to them. Friendship also came to them and to everyone.

The June 17 birthday party for Jennifer Shaklee’s brother, Airman First Class Aaron Stratton of the U.S. Airforce was bigger than planned. She was still able to surprise her parents with Aaron’s visit, but he arrived on a Firetruck escorted by members of the Marengo Fire and Rescue Squad. It was the last day of a week that no one in Marengo will ever forget. A week of tragedy with ripples of goodness.


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