Westland community helps family rebuild - KMSP-TV

Westland community helps family rebuild after fire destroys business

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Seven months ago an arson fire in Westland destroyed two businesses. A local firefighter, Brian Woehlke, was also killed in the fire.

The Marvaso family owned Marvaso's Italian Grille, one of the businesses that burned down. Monday night the community held a fundraiser to help the family.

The fundraiser comes almost two weeks after state police opened a homicide investigation in the Woehlke's death, after investigators determined that arson caused the fire that killed him and destroyed the businesses.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to learn more about the fundraiser and the Marvasos in a report from Fox 2's Maurielle Lue, or read it below
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"George and Mary over the years have been pillars in the community. They have given to everybody and everything."

But now its George and Mary who need help. Both of their businesses were destroyed in a brutal fire back in May.

The ruins of the Marvaso Italian Grille and The Electric Stick, the family-owned pool hall, stand tall in the blustery winds. The fire, later ruled arson, claimed the life of 29-year-old firefighter Brian Woehlke.

"Losing the firefighter Brian, and George and Mary and the Marvaso family were right on board with those fundraisers and trying to help that family as much as possible, and we felt like we just needed to do something for them," says Dennis Lemaitre, a fundraiser organizer.

The Marvasos put on a brave face attending fundraisers and donating to other causes but no one knew they were quietly drowning. Friends say struggling to support their own family and keep their house.

"Any group or organization that ever knocked on their door for help for a fundraiser; help us with our golf outing; help us with our school play; help us with this; they were always there, always writing a check. They were the go-to people in this community," Lemaitre adds. "They are such a proud, hardworking family that George never let on they were having any problems at all."

Westland's business community is stepping up for the Marvaso's reminding them they are not alone. So Monday night friends, families and businesses - people once touched by the Marvaso's generosity, now paying it forward.

"George and Mary Marvaso have supported the community for many years and every time in rotary we had a fundraiser and we needed help we'd ask and, of course, they would generously donate, so we have some people attending here and we're going to make a small donation to support the family," says Mary Vellardiat of the Westland Rotary Club.

"Over the weeks I think they have come to accept that this community just really wants to help them," says Lemaitre.

The fundraiser was from 5 - 8 p.m. Monday at the Westland Charshouse Restaurant on Warren Road.

If you were unable to attend the fundraiser but would still like to donate, you can do so at any Fifth Third Bank.

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