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Demo makes way for new beginning at James House in Willmar

WILLMAR -- After a lightning strike last summer damaged it, a Willmar halfway house that helped men recover from drug and alcohol addictions was demolished Tuesday.

Erica Dischino / TribuneRemains of the fire-damaged James House lay scattered at the site after demolition Tuesday morning in southwest Willmar. The board of the men’s halfway house for recovering addicts plans to rebuild.
Erica Dischino / Tribune Remains of the fire-damaged James House lay scattered at the site after demolition Tuesday morning in southwest Willmar. The board of the men’s halfway house for recovering addicts plans to rebuild.

WILLMAR - After a lightning strike last summer damaged it, a Willmar halfway house that helped men recover from drug and alcohol addictions was demolished Tuesday.

Now plans are being made to build a brand new facility at the same location for the 12-step, Christian-based program known as The James House.

"A lot of great things happened in that house and it's coming down," said Nate Juhl, director of The James House.

Zach Brouwer, a contractor from Raymond, made quick work of the demolition, which drew a group of onlookers Tuesday morning at 1423 Kandiyohi Ave. S.W.

Knowing that men's lives were changed in the old two-story home creates a sadness in its demise, but Juhl said there is also joy in knowing there are plans for a new beginning.

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In August, a quick-moving storm delivered a bolt of lightning to the roof of the house and started a fire in the attic that resulted in smoke and water damage throughout the entire building.

No one was injured in that fire, but the building was deemed uninhabitable and clients were relocated to other Willmar facilities while the board decided what to do with the building.

Initially, the plan was to repair the house.

But because of the age of the building and damage that would be costly to repair, Juhl said numerous contractors told them that it made more sense to start from scratch.

The board of directors for the nonprofit organization was expected to select an architect this week to design a new building, which Juhl said could be a duplex-style residential facility.

Money from the insurance claim will help offset construction costs, but he said additional money will have to be raised.

The goal is to have construction completed sometime this summer.

Once that happens, clients will be enrolled and full programming restored.

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Juhl said community support for The James House has been overwhelming and he's glad they can rebuild the program in the same neighborhood that has welcomed them since The James House started in 2001.

"We can't say thank you to the town of Willmar enough," Juhl said. "The outreach of support is very overwhelming."

Related Topics: FIRES
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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