by Larry Kline
Friends and co-workers have joined with local businesses in an effort to help Gary and Jessica Peterson, Havre residents who were put out of their home by a fire on Feb. 5.
A silent auction will be held at the Holiday Village Shopping Center this weekend to benefit the couple. The auction will be held from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
It will include items donated by local businesses, individuals and the Northern Montana Hospital, where Gary Peterson works. The items includes artwork, gift certificates, photos and other objects, said Ruby Goates, who works with Jessica Peterson at Bi-Mart. Goates helped organize the event with other co-workers.
"Whatever (money) we get will go straight to them," Goates said. "The more, the better."
Gary Peterson said he and his wife have been overwhelmed by the support they've received from the community.
"Everybody's just been unbelievable," he said. "It's just been unreal."
The Bi-Mart corporate office sent them supplies on one of the company's delivery trucks, including food staples, bathroom items and clothes. Other stores in the chain are also planning to send them supplies, Peterson said.
He said his co-workers at the hospital have been very supportive.
"They've bent over backwards to help out," he said. "Everyone at the hospital has. It's been overwhelming."
Peterson said Ralph Guthrie of the Salvation Army "was there as the house was burning" to offer help to the Petersons. The organization put them up in a hotel for a week until they were able to find another place to live, and has been generous with donating supplies, Peterson said. He said any items the couple receives that they already have will be donated to the Salvation Army.
Peterson said the couple has found a new home, and moved in on Feb. 12. It is near a hayfield, which provides plenty of running room for the pair's black Lab, Snoopy, who Peterson credits with saving his life.
"She's my hero," he said.
Snoopy awoke Peterson, who was sleeping when the fire started. The Havre Fire Department later determined the blaze began when a discarded cigarette ignited leaves and cardboard beneath a wooden deck in the rear of the house. Fire Chief Dave Sheppard would not say which the cigarette belonged to.
The house was also occupied by Tyler Skolrud. He could not be located for comment today.