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After near-death experience, former Cafe 225 worker says community support is pushing her through


After losing her job to the Downtown Visalia fire in December, a Tulare woman’s unlucky streak hit again when she nearly lost her life in a car accident. Despite all that, she said community support has helped with her recovery — fire-affected businesses are saying the same.

The accident happened a few days after Grace Kearney started her new job at Stacked Bar and Grill in Kingsburg. She was driving on a foggy Highway 99 when she hit a car that had broken down.

Kearney already was injured from the initial crash, but she was hurt even more after another car hit hers — the impact ejecting her from the car.

At that point, it had only been a month since Kearney lost her job at Cafe 225.

“I was told I had to quit school and I couldn’t go back to work for awhile. So, that was tough,” Kearney said while fighting back tears.

But even while describing what happened in her living room Thursday, a smile still would find its way on her face. She credits her optimistic outlook, to the support she’s had — since the crash and fire.

Last month, downtown Visalia businesses held a benefit for everyone affected by the fire. Kearney, before the accident, attended some of the benefit’s events to thank attendees personally.

The fundraising goal was in the tens of thousands, but when asked how much was collected so far — Downtown Visalia CEO Steve Nelsen was mum.

“For me, personally, it’s a pleasant surprise how much money has been raised,” Nelsen said. “It’s a matter of us getting ahold of the people that lost their jobs and then we’ll just distribute the funds.”

Meanwhile, the affected businesses continue to figure out the next steps. Some, like Pacific Treasures, have found new homes on Main Street. The store lost its entire inventory to smoke damage.

“I’m so happy that we can be here and still be on Main Street, because I adore Main Street,” the store’s owner, Michelle Wiebe, said. She adds the store plans to open in March.

Sequoia Brewing Company is hosting a Brewfest on Feb. 16 to raise money for people affected by the fire. It’ll be from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., at the Garden Street Plaza in downtown Visalia. Tickets are $25.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Kearney, you can find it by clicking here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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