MANTORVILLE, Minn. — When Shelby Jacobson and her family lived in Mantorville, Minn., she lived in the Chestnut Apartments, and they made friends with many of their fellow residents in the building.

"My son was really close to two of the kids who lived in the apartments," Jacobson said. "I’ve had contact with a few of the residents who survived the fire, or weren’t in the hospital."

Jacobson, along with her boyfriend and her son, lived in the apartment building beginning in 2018 before moving to Stewartville, Minn., at the end of 2019, living in apartment No. 1 in the 12-unit building.

Jacobson, who started a GoFundMe page to help residents of the Chestnut Apartments who lost their homes last week, said she's talked with friends who escaped the fire on Thursday.

"Most of them are staying at the hotel in Kasson, and the Kasson community has been so wonderful and supportive in helping them," she said.

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Shelby Jacobson
Shelby Jacobson

SEMCAC, a community action agency that operates emergency services for Dodge County, has handled the temporary housing needs for the individuals who escaped the fire. The agency will also help look for permanent housing solutions for those individuals.

Jacobson's GoFundMe page has a $15,000 goal. The funds, she said, will be used to get gift cards to Walmart so those individuals, who lost everything in the fire, can buy essentials, whether that be toiletries, clothes, or toys for the kids.

At the time of the fire, Jacobson said she knew of three children living in the building. Those children, as well as the adults, are in need, she said.

Any hope of salvaging items from the fire was dashed Saturday, Feb. 6, when the fire re-flamed and firefighters were again called to put out the smoldering remains of the building.

Jacobson isn't the only one hoping to find financial help from the community.

Michelle Sontag, of Stillwater, Minn., is asking for support for burial costs for her aunt, Cynthia Ferguson, who died in the fire.

In her message on GoFundMe, Sontag said her aunt had been battling lung cancer for some time.

"She had no money and no insurance and lost everything," Sontag wrote. "The family is looking for help to pay for her funeral and medical expenses. Any amount would be greatly appreciated."

While she moved away from the Chestnut Apartments over a year ago, Jacobson said the building was a place where her neighbors became her friends, and she hopes the community will give to her friends in their time of need.

"Well, when I lived there, you become a little community, and they become part of your family," she said. "Most of these residents are out everything they have worked so hard for in life. For some, this place was a stepping stone to move into a home, but for most, it was their forever home."