Deacon, church community recovering after fire

HAMMOND, Ind. (WLS) -- A deacon is recovering after being injured in a fire that destroyed a church building used as a food pantry and outreach center in Hammond, Indiana.

Craig Williams, a deacon at the Bethel Church of God in Christ, was injured on Monday afternoon when was at the church setting up for a meeting when he smelled gas and checked a furnace room.

Meanwhile, plans to rebuild the church building can't come quick enough for those in the community, who rely on the church's food pantry and kitchen.

Pastor Joseph Alford said his prayers have been answered now that Williams is no longer in a coma.

Doctors had placed Williams in a medically-induced coma after he suffered severe burns to his hands and face following an explosion and fire that destroyed a building at the church.

The Monday night blast leveled the church's food pantry and kitchen, which feeds between 500 and 800 people each month.

It also forced the cancellation of the church's Thanksgiving plans.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson offered his support on Thursday while on hand for the Rainbow Push Coalition's annual free Thanksgiving Day dinner.

"We've taken some of our food and sharing it with Bethel in Hammond, Indiana, for they deserve it," said Rev. Jackson.

Volunteers donated several trays of food to Pastor Alford to take back to his community as the church hopes to raise money to replace freezers and other kitchen appliances destroyed in the explosion.

We lost a lot of aid. We were able to get the turkeys out on Sunday, but everything else was left in there," said Pastor Alford.

The church hopes to have its kitchen and food pantry up and running within a year.

In the meantime, they'll transfer as much of their outreach as they can to the main church building.
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