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Fundraiser up in smoke after church fire

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) -- Just days after members of a fundraiser stored prom dresses in a church,  the church caught fire.

Elizabeth Dickerson and Carolyn Petersen said more than 90-dresses cannot be sold. The fire, at Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church, on University and State, happened Tuesday night. While the dresses didn't burn, there's too much smoke damage to sell them.

Dickerson says it would cost more to clean the dresses than what they would sell for. So, they're all a total loss.

"We picked up the dresses a week ago Sunday from the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house on campus."

Two days later, Elizabeth Dickerson received a call from her husband who said the church was on fire.

"I just felt awful. My first fear was that the beautiful, 100-year old church had burned and then my next thought was, 'Oh, my gosh, our dresses!'"

For more than five years, the fundraiser organizers have collected used prom dresses for people on a budget to buy. This year, sorority girls at the UI donated more than 90 dresses.

"The dresses were being stored in the rectory of the church and the fire was in the attic, so all the dresses the Alpha Chi Omega girls had donated have smoke damage. So, fortunately, the dresses didn't burn to taters, but they're just badly smoke damaged."

Investigators say it was an accident. The fire was caused by an electrical failure. The organization now has a month to replace the dresses they lost.

"Their understanding, it's nothing any of us could think about and we're just trying to make the best of our situation now."

All the money raised during the sale goes to Courage Connection which provides housing and supportive services to individuals and families who are victims of domestic violence.

All leftover prom dresses go to the group's consignment store. The fundraiser is the weekend of February 23 and will be held at the church. 

Prom Dress Drop-off at the church
February 23, 3 - 5 pm
February 24, 9 am - 12 pm

Prom Dress Sale
February 24, 2 - 5 pm

Carolyn Petersen: 217-390-4816


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