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Espresso Bay Barista Loses Everything but his Optimism in 8th Street Fire

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Ben Vander Ark is a student at Northern Michigan College, a Barista at Espresso Bay and works at Taco Bell.

A few weeks ago his life got flipped upside down when he returned to his apartment and saw everything in flames. He lost all of his belongings in the 8th Street fire that happened on Friday, March 8.

“You know it happens all the time, but you never expect it to happen to you,” says Vander Ark.

Vander Ark lost his Macbook, art he’d made and other possessions that you can’t put a dollar amount on.

“I pretty quickly had to accept that I wasn’t going to get anything out of there based on what the firefighters were saying and how it looked,” he says.

Ben’s co-workers at Espresso Bay rallied behind him and started a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $1,000 since the fire.

His co-worker Tia Lehmann was quick to help.

“Immediately we all just thought we have to do something because Ben’s an integral part of the family here and we do treat each other as family, so we were trying to figure out ways to help him as much as possible,” she says.

The optimism and sense of community Ben has felt after this tragedy is giving him hope for the future.

“Perhaps really terrible things are a catalyst for things that are good when we rally to overcome them,” Vander Ark says.

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