HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 7, 2005

Fighting fire with chili: benefit planned to help family recover from house fire

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Larry Stifter of Winsted didn’t realize when he left for work the morning of Sept. 21, that the next time he saw his home it would be in flames.

“I left at five in the morning and got a call about five minutes to noon, and my wife got a call at the same time,” Stifter said.

Larry and Sandy Stifter’s home in Winsted burned when something caught fire in the wastebasket in the bedroom, according to Stifter.

No one wants the chance to learn how they would respond to such a devastating event, but Stifter found out firsthand.

“I couldn’t believe it. It’s hard to explain the feeling after you see it and realize you don’t have anything but the clothes on your back,” Stifter said.

Their house is located in Pheasant Run, and the Winsted Fire Department was called to the blaze just before noon, and mutual aid was immediately called in from Lester Prairie and Howard Lake to assist with the fire.

The heaviest fire damage was contained to two rooms, but there is extensive smoke and water damage throughout the home, Herbolsheimer said.

The cost estimate for total damages has not been received by the Stifters yet, but almost everything was destroyed in the fire.

Although the effects of the fire can’t be reversed, family and friends are finding a way to turn the Stifters’ lives around.

A benefit is being planned to help Stifter, his wife, and their four children cope with their loss, and help them get back on their feet.

Stifter’s sister, Margie Kehn, is heading up a benefit in the couple’s name to help them reestablish themselves once their home is repaired.

“I had found out from them that their insurance only covers a percentage of what they lost. Some friends of mine had just planned a benefit for another friend, so I got some help getting started,” Kehn said.

The benefit, which is a chili feed, will take place at the Blue Note in Winsted Saturday, Nov. 19, from 4 to 8 p.m.

Chili, with all the fixings, will be served, along with a bar and beverages. Refreshments will also include hot dogs and root beer slushies.

Clowns, face painting, and a silent auction will entertain people, against the musical stylings of guitarist Matt Karayan.

People may also donate money at the Community Bank of Winsted, where there is a fund set up in the Stifters’ name.

“Whatever we make will be just a little bit extra for them to furnish their house,” Kehn said.

Kehn started planning the benefit shortly after the fire, and has had help from family and friends.

“I live in Chaska, so I’ve been doing a lot of planning by phone,” Kehn said.

Meanwhile, the Stifters have been renting a house on the other side of Winsted, making do with what they have.

People have donated clothes and furniture to the Stifter family to fill the rented house.

“They took dishes and stuff out of their camper to use,” Kehn said.

Repairs have been started on the house, which they are supposed to be able to move into in two months.

So far, the house is gutted, and there is a lot more work to do, including plumbing and electrical.

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