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Willmar halfway home left uninhabitable after lightning strike causes fire; donations sought

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Carolyn Lange / Tribune The future of James House in Willmar, could be in jeopardy, according to director Nate Juhl, if funds are not raised to repair the home that serves as a volunteer-run, Christian-based addiction rehabilitation facility for men.2 / 4
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Damage from lightning, fire and water Monday at the James House in Willmar will mean extensive reconstruction of the addiction rehab facility. James House had housed seven residents until Monday's fire. They have all since been relocated.3 / 4
Carolyn Lange / Tribune Nate Juhl, director of the James House in Willmar, said the future of the program could be in jeopardy if funds are not raised to repair the home that serves as a volunteer-run, Christian-based addiction rehabilitation facility for men.4 / 4

WILLMAR — Donations are being requested to help rebuild a men's drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility in Willmar that was damaged Monday after being struck by lightning.

The two-story home on Kandiyohi Avenue Southwest is currently uninhabitable, and the seven male residents who had been participating in the residential program have found alternative housing.

It's hoped that repairs can be made at the James House to allow the 12-step, Christian-based program to resume and the residents to return, said Director Nate Juhl.

He said it could take several months before the repairs are made. In the meantime, no new clients will be accepted.

"If the funds aren't raised, then our time at the house is over," Juhl said. "We don't want that to happen, but the fact of the matter is we need funds to operate."

Started 14 years ago by Gary Van Eps as a residential addiction recovery program for men, the facility is run by volunteers who have also struggled with addiction and received help at the James House.

"I know what that house can do for a guy," said Juhl, who credits his recovery to the James House.

"I want to carry it forward. It's my duty to carry it forward," he said. "I'll happily carry it forward."

Although the fire was contained to the roof and attic, the fire, smoke, water and electrical damage was more extensive than originally thought, Juhl said.

Inspectors toured the house, he said, and it appears the entire roof will need to be replaced and many of the bedrooms will need to be gutted and remodeled. The wiring for the house will also need to be redone.

Because the lightning fried electrical units, all the appliances need to be replaced.

Water from firefighting efforts seeped from the top floor to the basement, leaving the basement floor flooded, Juhl said.

There was insurance on the house, but Juhl said that will not cover all the expenses of making the building operational again.

"We're very thankful that nobody was hurt, and we know God will see us through this as he always has," Juhl said. "We're thankful for the people who have reached out to us with prayers and messages of support."

Juhl said he's especially thankful to The Fortress, another Willmar recovery facility for men, that found space for the James House residents. Some residents, however, opted to return to their hometowns.

A GoFundMe page has been established and donations can also be made through the James House website: or sent to the James House at PO Box 1865, Willmar, MN 56201. Anyone who wants to donate materials or labor can contact Juhl at 712-260-9673.

"Any amount helps," Juhl said. "Nothing is too little. Nothing is too big. We're definitely reaching out to the community right now."

Because all the staff are volunteers, he said all the money that's donated goes to the house repairs and the program.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750