Dads group raises funds for Elizabeth family after fire

Bernie’s Kitchen is site of event to help local residents

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Local nonprofit organization Dads of Elbert County (DoEC) held a fundraiser on Sept. 1 at Bernie’s Kitchen in Elizabeth to benefit the Greg and Susan Owen family. The Owen home south of Elizabeth was struck by lightning during a severe storm on Aug. 15, causing a devastating fire.
 
At the fundraiser, 12 DoEC members worked at Bernie’s Kitchen from 5-8 p.m. Clad in their matching black T-shirts and hats, members greeted, seated and waited on customers throughout the evening. They served a $15 penne Alfredo dinner accompanied by salad and garlic bread. They also set out a donation jar for anyone wanting to give beyond the $15 set dinner price.
 
All proceeds from the fundraiser went directly to the Owen family, and while DoEC president Clint Decker declined to reveal the amount, he said the fundraiser was “a huge success for this family.”
 
“The reason we started DoEC is to help those in Elbert County who are unable to help themselves or who have an urgent need that we can support. When the fire hit the Owen family, we immediately knew we needed to do something to help,” said Decker. “We love our community and are proud to help when we can. It’s really just neighbors helping neighbors.”
 
Bernie’s Kitchen, an Elizabeth institution, has a history of working to help people in need and during periods of struggle. The business has previously opened its kitchen for other nonprofit events, and it worked with nonprofit groups including DoEC during COVID-19 to provide food to ailing families.
 
“I love to open up my restaurant for things like this,” said BJ Hutchinson, owner of Bernie’s Kitchen. “It’s all about community to me. And families. Anything I can do to give back, I do it.”
 
Over the course of the fundraiser’s first hour, Bernie’s Kitchen started to pack with people wanting to support the Owen family. Patrons sat at tables with their loved ones talking about the food, the fire, and the Owen family. Meaghan Suchomel of Elizabeth shared her reasoning for coming to the event.
 
“For me, fire is terrifying. It’s one of the worst natural disasters that can hit you,” said Suchomel. “It’s one of my biggest fears, and when I saw this family lose almost everything, it really hit my heart.”
 
Greg and Susan Owen were in attendance, observing everyone who came into the restaurant to support them. They set near the door, talking with patrons as they approached to give their condolences. When asked how she felt about the community coming together to support her family, Susan Owen shared her thoughts.
 
“What is there to say? This is beyond kind. Beyond caring,” she said. “People from all over came to help us when our house was burning. It was overwhelming. Everybody came. People I didn’t even know came to help us. This town is amazing and I’m so glad I live here.”
 
The Dads of Elbert County are continuing to take donations for the Owen family through Venmo. Donations should be sent to @doec1 with the memo reading “Owen fire donation.”

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