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Community response to arson loss has been heart-warming

Just when it seemed a grinch had spoiled a Christmas tradition in Ishpeming, the response of the community, some students and one former resident has helped to brighten the situation immeasurably.

It started with a case of suspected arson which burned to the ground Santa’s Workshop in downtown Ishpeming early Saturday morning.

The workshop has become an Ishpeming tradition during the holiday season, giving children a chance to talk to the Jolly Ol’ Man in person.

The fire story made national news and we hope those same outlets pick up on what happened next. Because it’s heart-warming.

Donations poured in from outraged citizens, not just from Ishpeming but from the surrounding communities and around the country. Brett Anttila, the volunteer who helps organize the workshop annually, received calls this week from instructors at Ishpeming Public Schools and Northern Michigan University who offered the time and help of their students, a welcome development.

And then former Ishpeming resident Tim Easterwood of Oakland Township stepped up, offering to donate the full cost of rebuilding Santa’s Workshop.

“I grew up in Ishpeming, and as a child I thoroughly enjoyed all the community events put on by the city during the holiday season. When I read about the arson and total demolition of Santa’s Workshop, it saddened me,” he said in a Thursday Mining Journal story. “I thought about the children who would be missing the community tradition and I knew I had to do something. I want this to be a showcase for the Ishpeming Holiday Season to show that the community came together and made a positive out of a negative situation.”

In Thursday’s story, Easterwood said he hopes the donation can make an impact on the person or persons responsible for the fire.

“I was hoping that this donation and the community outpouring may be the catalyst to help the arsonist understand the severity of his/her actions,” Easterwood said. “Perhaps this may even help change the life of the arsonist and turn him/her in the right direction. That would truly make this a win/win.”

Indeed, this story has evolved from a sad situation into a joyful one. We hope the person or persons who set the workshop ablaze have had their grinchly hearts grow a few sizes watching people come together as a community.

Heck, yes, we’ll say it: Christmas was saved — or at least a sweet part of the most wonderful time of the year was restored.

This will be the third Santa’s Workshop, Anttila said. The first Santa’s Workshop was destroyed by a strong wind storm that hit Ishpeming in spring 2017. Following the second rebuild, Santa’s Workshop had its biggest year yet during the 2018 holiday season, he said, with over 750 children coming to visit Santa at the workshop.

Many had banded together to rebuild Santa’s Workshop in years past, with help from Ishpeming businesses Seelen’s Home Improvement, Kukla Electric, Carpet Specialists and Anttila’s own business, Anttila Towing, he said previously, noting it was their way of “giving back to the community.”

For anyone wanting to donate, a GoFundMe page for Santa’s Workshop can be found at www.gofundme.com/f/santa039s-xmas-house-replacement. Call Anttila’s Towing at 906-250-2333 for more information on how to get involved.

The Ishpeming City Police Department is asking anyone who has information on the fire to contact them at 906-486-4416.