A massive fire nearly destroyed one of the oldest buildings in Turley – forcing out a volunteer group that serves 20 tons of food a month to the less fortunate.
The building was once a church, built in 1925. It’s since been converted into a community center run by an all-volunteer group that said it's not going to stop its service.
Alarms sounded around 2 a.m. Thursday; fire crews raced to the scene and found about two-thirds of the building on fire.
“I could see the fire. I could see actual flames about a mile from here,” the Turley fire captain said. “There’s one part of the building that the fire didn’t get to.”
The part that was destroyed served as a food store, providing people 20 tons of food a month for free.
Reverend Ron Robinson said, “Everything in it was given to us. We exist by donations.”
Robinson is the executive director of A Third Place Foundation, the all-volunteer group that owns the building.
“We’re hoping that we can still use part of the building, the building is a tool for our mission,” he said.
The mission is to improve the health of the neighborhood by providing provide food, clothing and computer access . Its motto is “take what you need, leave what you can.”
While the loss of the space is devastating, Robinson quickly began thinking of those in need.
“You just begin to feel bad for all of our neighbors that we serve,” he said.
The reverend said the fire won’t stop their efforts, as they plan to give out food less than the 36 hours later.
“We’re going to be feeding people five tons of food in one hour, tomorrow, right here at this spot,” he said.
It’s a resiliency Robinson said they get from watching their neighbors struggle.
“I get inspired by the people I live with. I’m from here, I live here,” he said.
He said if they can suffer from hunger and lack of healthcare on a daily basis, A Third Place can rally to recoup their loss.
Robinson said, “We know we’re going to need refrigerators, freezers, shelves, carts.”
Thankfully, no one was inside at the time and no injuries have been reported.
The State Fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.
If you would like to help, you can call 918-691-3223 for information on how to volunteer and donate.