CLINTON — As she watched her brother’s Clinton home burn June 12, Barb Suehl could see the helplessness in the family’s faces.

The fire at 708 Park Place took away their personal items and so much more.

“It was 25 years of memories up in smoke,” Suehl said Tuesday of the fire that destroyed her brother Greg Graf’s home. It was the help provided by the Gateway Area Chapter of the American Red Cross that she says helped so much in the hours after the fire as the family dealt with all of the personal loss.

“The Red Cross was right there saying ‘We’ll help you,’” she said.

Suehl, a Fulton, Ill., businesswoman, wants to return the favor by helping the Red Cross replenish funds that have been eaten up in the past fiscal year, exacerbated by a rash of fires in the past two weeks, the most recent a nine-unit apartment building fire in Fulton on Friday.

She is spearheading a benefit that will take place Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gil’s Ballroom.

Her goal?

To raise $20,000 that will be given to the Red Cross as it struggles to offset a budget deficit of more than $60,000.

The Red Cross’ local chapter helped 185 people this past fiscal year, responding to 27 disasters in that time. From July 1 to today, the organization’s $15,000 disaster budget is not only depleted but is $63,000 over budget due to disaster response costs.

Suehl said there will be many activities at Sunday’s fund-raiser, including music by Coupe De Ville, a dunk tank provided by the Clinton Department of Parks and Recreation, live remotes by radio stations and dinner at a cost of $10 per person. There also will be face painting provided by the Felix Adler Children's Discovery Center.

She also is asking businesses and manufacturing sites to collect from employees to donate, telethon style, at the event.

As of noon Tuesday, Suehl had collected $3,647 in donations brought to her real estate and insurance office. She said residents throughout the Gateway area are getting involved in the cause.

“Groups and organizations are coming forward to fill the need,” she said.

She also said firefighters from Clinton and area towns are invited to attend. The goal is to recognize firefighters at the event to let them know how much they are appreciated by the community.

Donations cane be dropped off at the Suehl Insurance Agency and River City Realty in Fulton, Gateway Travel and Cruise in Clinton, Clinton National Bank, Citizens First Bank and the Gateway Area Chapter of the American Red Cross or mailed to the Red Cross at 1220 13th Ave. North, Clinton IA 52732.

For more information, call Suehl at (815) 589-4763 or 1-888-663-4763.

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