the aftermath of the September 2 fire that destroyed Canada’s largest year round farmers market • HEATHER DAVIDSON PHOTOGRAPHY MANAGER

the aftermath of the September 2 fire that destroyed Canada’s largest year round farmers market • HEATHER DAVIDSON PHOTOGRAPHY MANAGER

Locals create fund to help after farmers market fire

Lauren Ward

In the wake of tragedy a group of Waterloo residents are helping to rebuild one of the area’s landmarks, the St. Jacob’s Farmers Market.

At around 1:45 a.m. on September 2, fire ripped through the main building at St. Jacob’s, impacting the businesses of approximately 60 vendors who had set up shop at the market.

Those same vendors bore the brunt of the financial damages, which are estimated to be $2.5 million.

“After the fire, and after we got together, we did a survey of the vendors. The logs showed there was about quarter of a million lost,” ex- plained Rosemary Smith, CEO of the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation.

Smith was brought on board to help oversee a fund in order to assist in rebuilding not only the market, but also the community of business owners.

“For this project we are doing it pro-bono,” said Smith. “What we do at the [KWCF] is that we bring organizations together. We are a con- nector for them. We help build investments and handle funds for charities.”

“There are a lot of vendors who did not have insurance,” she added. “There are some so small that they just did not have insurance, but there are also many who thought they had insurance or thought that they were covered for this by their insurance but actually are not.”
Smith said that, for her and many other locals, St. Jacob’s is more than just a place of business.

“The market is a huge economic driver in the community. It is a cultural icon and a tour- ist attraction. It is where people go to meet and socialize.”

The market also employed many people in the community. Immediately following the fire, Abdullah Lawendy, who has been selling middle eastern cuisine at the market for 30 years, told CTV Kitchener: “To have to tell my staff that have worked for me for 15 years that we can no longer keep them on… it’s overwhelming.”

“We have been approached by 35 vendors for help from the fund,” said Dan Herman, who also works with KWCF. “We have an application with strict criteria. We understand that people might feel we should have done this right off the bat and that we have lost some momentum. Howev- er, we wanted to do get this right and make sure we were probably organized and able to handle this project properly.”

The KWCF does not fundraise, but rather ac- cepts donations and support from other com- munity fundraising initiatives. “Some [fundrais- ers] ran independently and we are not sure who, [they are]” explained Herman. “Maxwell’s Music House had a music fundraiser, but we are not sure how much they raised.”

The market-rebuilding fund is now set up so that every dollar donated by the public, three dollars will go into the fund. Two organizations, Mersynergy Charitable and an anonymous corporation in the region, have already put up $75,000 for the match. KWCF is hoping more corporations will come on board to donate and that they will have $250,000 in the fund by De- cember 31. Though the end of December is not
a hard deadline, Smith wants to take what they have by this date to distribute out to the vendors.

Other organizations that have been a great help to the cause include KPMG, Home Hardware, and Brady’s Meats and Deli. Though Brady’s was affected by the fire itself, it has still been helping out other vendors. Brady’s ran a fundraiser soon after the incident. “Efforts are small but mean a lot,” said Herman.

Rebuilding the market is just part of the tradi- tion of this small, Mennonite populated town. “St. Jacobs is a community of ‘barn raisers’,” explained Smith. “This is why it was quick for them to go back to business as soon as possible. This is going to help to rebuild the market.”

If you would like to help with the St. Jacob’s Market fund you can check out the website for more information