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Bellingham community rallies around those impacted by Fairhaven fire

GoFundMe raises money for employees; locals collect gift cards, offer meals

Flowers sit outside the burned Terminal Building in Fairhaven
Flowers sit outside the burned Terminal Building in Fairhaven Monday morning (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Charlotte Alden General Assignment/Enterprise Reporter

Editor’s Note: This story has been made available outside the newspaper’s paywall as a public service.

Community members and local businesses are stepping up to provide for employees impacted following a devastating fire that gutted the Terminal Building in Fairhaven and left one person missing.

The building, completed in 1888, housed The Old Independent Coffeehouse and Harris Avenue Cafe, along with other businesses on the second floor. A GoFundMe to cover lost wages for employees in the coming weeks, organized by Eve Rivera on behalf of Jackson Bannister-Aumell, general manager of the two businesses, met its goal of $70,000 in 48 hours.

“There are now twenty employees who are suddenly without work in the middle of the holiday season,” Bannister-Aumell wrote in the GoFundMe description. “Some of these workers are part time and may not qualify for unemployment.” 

Nathaniel V. Breaux, owner of the cafe and coffeehouse, has been missing since the fire. In a Dec. 18 update, Bannister-Aumell and Rivera wrote that they were “overwhelmed” with the support received so far. They wrote that they were in contact with Nate’s family, who came to Bellingham after reporting him missing. The search for victims was suspended Monday afternoon until sometime Tuesday.

Bannister-Aumell wrote that they would distribute the money equally among employees to help cover rent, utilities, food and “other basic needs for 1-2 months while our employees recoup and begin to look for work elsewhere.” 

In a Dec. 19 update, Bannister-Aumell wrote that they were at a “loss for words” about meeting the goal in 48 hours. 

“The crew plans to come together to decide what will be done with the excess funds and we will update everyone once we have made that decision,” he said. “Once again, thank you so, so much.”

Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse, located next to the historic structure, will likely be closed for months due to water and smoke damage, owner Paul Han said Tuesday.


Elizabeth McCarter, daughter of the building owner, set up a GoFundMe for Dirty Dan’s employees. She said on the GoFundMe page that “every cent is going to employees.”

McCarter confirmed on a phone call with CDN that there are about 15 employees at Dirty Dan’s, all which will be out of work while the restaurant is closed. She said she organized this to give employees a little something for the holidays. 

As of Dec. 19, the GoFundMe has raised $8,850 of its $7,500 goal. McCarter wrote in a Dec. 19 update that they should be able to deliver a check to Dirty Dan’s by the weekend.

Steve Marandola, who runs the bar at Dirty Dan’s, posted the fundraiser on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“I’m not sharing this for myself, but for my coworkers. I won’t be accepting a dime,” Marandola wrote Facebook. “…It’s devastating to lose your livelihood, even more so during the holiday season. The loss to our neighbors and our community is incalculable.”

On Dec. 19, Barbi Telek, the mother of Breaux’s 2-year-old child Izabella, posted a GoFundMe to raise $30,000 to support their family.

Telek said in the GoFundMe description that Breaux’s last known location was at the cafe, working late at night before it burned. 

“We hope that he’s not within the debris of the fire, but as of right now I am deeply concerned for our little girl’s day-to-day life,” she wrote.

The funding will go toward caring for Izabella’s basic needs and will be shared with Telek’s mother, who was working part-time at the Harris Avenue Cafe and provides child care for Izabella, according to the GoFundMe description.

Other support efforts

Other organizations are collecting gift cards, offering food or donating tips.

The Fairhaven Association is organizing a collection of $25 gift cards at the HUB at 1106 Harris Ave. inside Finnegan’s Alley to support employees and tenants of the Terminal Building and Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse. 

The collection will be from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday Dec. 20, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Dec. 21, and 9 a.m. to noon on Friday Dec. 22, according to a Facebook post. 

Fairhaven Association Executive Director Heather Carter said they will accept any kind of $25 gift card — to local businesses, big box stores or even VISA cards. “We just wanted to figure out a way that we can help and expedite it quickly this week before Christmas,” she said. 

Carter said she will put a sign and balloons out on Harris Avenue to direct people to the collection events this week. 

“What I’m noticing today is so much generosity is flowing right now between our businesses,” she said. “We’re right across from the [Terminal] building, so we are sad not only for the business community, but they were our neighbors.” 


Other businesses in town are providing free meals and donations:

El Sueñito Brewing announced on Instagram yesterday that it would be extending its free meal program to anyone impacted by the fire and those who have lost their jobs. The program provides one free tamale plate. Those interested can visit their taproom at 1926 Humboldt St. in Bellingham to claim the meal, according to the post. 

Övn Wood Fired Pizza at 1148 10th St. in Fairhaven is providing one free pizza daily to those who are “facing uncertainty” because of the fire. The pizzas are to-go only and limited to margherita and pepperoni with gluten-free and vegan options available, according to a Facebook post. Those interested can stop by or call 360-393-4327. 

The Colophon Café at 1208 11th St. in Fairhaven is donating all tips received on coffee orders today directly to the Harris Avenue Cafe and The Old Independent Coffeehouse staff, according to a Facebook post

Bayou on Bay at 1300 Bay St. in Bellingham is donating 11% of sales this Friday, Dec. 22 to the effort, according to a Facebook post.

Know of other efforts? Let us know at newstips@cascadiadaily.com


This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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