BLOOMING PRAIRIE — A fundraiser for two Main Street businesses impacted by last week’s fire has continued to grow, now with a second silent auction location and Valentine’s Day treat boxes available for purchase.

The idea to do an auction and soup supper benefit was initially floated by members of the Blooming Prairie Cancer Group the day after the Jan. 28 blaze hollowed out The Bakery and damaged neighboring Sportstitch, Inc. After overwhelming interest in the event, set to be hosted Feb. 15 at the Pizza Cellar, organizers decided to try and expand into a second location.

Now, food and bidding will also be available down the street at J & H Liquors. The two events will run simultaneously, and volunteer Connie Trom said guests will be able to move between the two locations.

“People can go back and forth, if they want. If it gets crowded in one, they can move to the other,” she explained. “We were trying to figure out how to handle the flow of people.”

Trom noted that, in the days after announcing the initial auction, the group had gotten calls from as far away as Florida by people wanting to help out.

“Everyone in town is so concerned, and everyone in town wants to help in some way. We figured we were going to have a lot of townspeople as well as out-of-town people at the event,” she added. As of Friday afternoon, the event posting on Facebook had been shared by almost 400 people.

‘We need to show our love’

In addition to the expanded auction, an Austin bakery with Blooming Prairie ties has also hopped on board to make Valentine’s Day boxes available for delivery, with proceeds going back to The Bakery and Sportstitch.

According to a post by the business’ owner, Kathi Finley, Just Take the Cake will be assembling bow-wrapped batches of brownie bite and strawberry shortcake cupcakes, as well as heart-shaped snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookie sandwiches and various flavors of fudge.

Each box will also come with a handmade card from Nikki’s Scrapbook Nook in Blooming Prairie.

“I knew she was going to be overwhelmed,” said owner Nikki Ryks, of wanting to help longtime friend Finley with the fundraiser. “Everybody loved The Bakery, and I’ve had many customers who would come down from the Cities and they’d go to The Bakery before coming here … Everybody is really, really anxious and hopeful that they rebuild.”

Although Finley’s business is located outside of Blooming Prairie, she said she and her family also have a strong connection to the town. She added that she has done similar offers for Valentine’s Day in the past and decided that this time around, she’d pass along the proceeds to the benefit.

“We need to show our love on Valentine’s Day for these people who have lost their livelihood,” she explained. “My son attends the Blooming Prairie schools and we do a lot of business in town. When you’re part of a community like that, it’s like everyone’s family.”

Trom agreed, noting that the Cancer Group has already received over 100 items for the auction, with more known donations on the way. She added that residents have also offered to make bars, cookies and other baked goods for the supper.

Rochester resident Patricia O’Neil even painted a watercolor of The Bakery after being approached by former coworker Jenny Evans.

“We used to work together at Mayo. She knows that I’m an artist and she asked me if I would paint The Bakery and I was happy to do it,” said O’Neil, who had heard about the fire on the news. “A couple of the elderly community members were so sad, because that’s where they met for coffee every week. That place was so important to Blooming Prairie, you could tell from the residents.”

She added that she’s currently working on another painting of Sportstitch, which she’s also planning on donating to the auction. In addition to helping raise funds for the business owners, O’Neil said she also saw it as a way to preserve the building through art.

How to get involved

The Feb. 15 benefit will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. at both the Pizza Cellar and J & H Liquors, downtown Blooming Prairie. Admission to the supper is a free-will donation, with proceeds from both the meal and the silent auction going back to the two business owners.

Donations for the auction can be dropped off at either the Pizza Cellar or Krejci Ford, with volunteers asking residents to get them in sooner rather than later so volunteers have time to prepare everything prior to the event.

In addition, organizers have also set up a benefit account for the businesses at Farmers and Merchants State Bank in Blooming Prairie, where residents can drop off cash donations.

Just Take the Cake will be accepting orders for Valentine’s Day boxes through noon on Feb. 11. Each order costs $25, and can be delivered between 8 a.m. and noon on Feb. 14, or picked up from the Austin Eagles Club later that day. If getting a box dropped off, Finley asked that residents be present for the delivery.

So far, orders can be brought to the Austin, Blooming Prairie and Brownsdale areas, although Finley said she’d be able to expand the radius if there were enough interest in other communities.

To order, customers can private message the business through Facebook with delivery preferences and address, number of boxes and a message for the card. Payment options include via Facebook Messenger, Square or cash. Guests should receive a confirmation of their order.

For more information, visit “BP Cancer Group” or “Just Take the Cake” on Facebook.

Reporter Bridget Kranz can be reached at 507-444-2376. Follow her on Twitter @OPPBridget. ©Copyright 2019 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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