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Bad fire, good outcome (10 photos)

SK Group merchandise cleaned, donated to charities after Queen Street fire's smoke damage
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It isn’t often a serious fire produces a good news story, but this is an exception.

Following a devastating Jan. 31 Queen St. E. blaze which destroyed the homes of several local businesses in the downtown core, SK Group donated thousands of new, cleaned clothing items to local charities at the Marconi Club Friday, May 24.

“We were two buildings over from the fire and we suffered some smoke damage. Any clothing, anything like that, tends to hold all the smoke and we had quite a bit of clothing in stock and it all had to go,” said Sherry Berlinghoff, SK Group president, speaking to SooToday.

SK Group offers engraving of logos for its clients corporate clothing as well as commercial printing, laser engraving, signage, graphic design and promotional items.

Items available for charities at Friday’s event included jackets, sweatshirts, hoodies, T-shirts, dress shirts and hats for men, women and youth.

“The way insurance usually works, it would all have had to go in the garbage. We wouldn’t be allowed to sell it. We were beside ourselves,” Sherry said.

“We had some amazing clothing and we didn’t just want to throw it out, so we asked our insurance company if they would allow us to donate it, and they said yes, which is very unusual, so we were thrilled.”

Property restoration company WINMAR, which performed restoration work on SK Group’s building after the fire, volunteered to wash all the smoke-damaged clothing.

“That was a big undertaking for the amount of clothing we had, so that was fantastic. All the clothing is definitely usable again,” Sherry said.

Sonny Spina, Algoma Family Services Foundation chair, spoke with Sherry and suggested having charities come to SK Group and take what clothing they needed, Sonny assisting in organizing the clothing giveaway.

Algoma Family Services, District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services, the United Way of Sault Ste. Marie, Breton House, Phoenix Rising, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services and the Salvation Army were among charities who benefitted from the event.

“We set it all out for them today, and the Marconi donated their space. They came and picked up all the racks from our building. We were here this morning setting everything up. It’s exciting to see all this action happening here today (the Marconi also providing a delicious meal at cost),” Sherry said.

“All of the clothing will go from the charities to those in need. We’re so happy to see the community benefit from this, even though it resulted from unfortunate circumstances. Myself and my staff, we want this to go to people in need.”   

As for SK Group itself, the company had to work out of another building for about three months after the January fire, able to move back into its Queen Street location May 6.

“The building is good enough for us to get back into. There’s still a little bit of work to be done, but it’s looking good,” Sherry smiled.




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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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