Community rallies to support Millers Falls fire victims

  • Element Brewing Co. held a fundraiser on Wednesday for the Verchot family, who lost their home to a fire at 20 Bridge St. in Millers Falls on Nov. 8. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Springfield musician John Mlynick performs at Element Brewing Co.’s fundraiser for the Verchot family, who lost their home to a fire at 20 Bridge St. in Millers Falls on Nov. 8. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2022 6:13:22 PM
Modified: 11/24/2022 6:13:12 PM

MILLERS FALLS — Element Brewing Co.’s fundraiser raised more than $1,000 on Wednesday for the Verchot family, who lost their home in a devastating fire at 20 Bridge St. earlier this month.

Ben Anhalt, who co-owns the brewery alongside Dan Kramer, said the fundraiser’s turnout was “a lot better than anticipated.” Kramer emphasized that this was particularly impressive because the brewery is not typically open on Wednesday nights.

“People have been coming in all day, which is really cool to see,” Anhalt noted.

“A lot of people here tonight aren’t regular customers,” Kramer added, “but they came out to support the community and it’s heartwarming to see people come out.”

While regular customers may not have made up a large percentage of the evening’s attendance, those who came predominantly lived nearby. Anhalt particularly glowed as he observed Montague town officials among the crowd.

“It’s great that people are out tonight in full force,” Anhalt said, scanning the room and counting heads. “I’m just looking around the bar right now, and it’s like, ‘local, local, local, local.’”

Some neighbors stopped by Wednesday solely to drop off goods and monetary donations, the co-owners said. Kramer highlighted the contribution of a $200 gift card courtesy of the Leo’s Table restaurant in South Deerfield. Kramer has previously noted that since the Verchots are now living in a hotel, donations of gift cards to local restaurants and stores would be especially helpful.

In addition to the brewery donating 75% of sales, apple crisp from Whistle Stop Cafe was served at the fundraiser, with all proceeds supporting the Verchot family. The evening also included a performance from Springfield musician John Mlynick, who said he felt inclined to help after seeing the fire.

“I was outside taking a break, and one of my thoughts was, ‘What are we thankful for?’” Mlynick said. “We all have a place to go tonight. That family doesn’t, besides a hotel.”

The fire destroyed the Verchots’ two-family home at 20 Bridge St. — just down the street from Element Brewing Co. — on Nov. 8. It resulted in the death of 66-year-old Judy Verchot, as well as two cats.

Granddaughter Janelle Verchot previously said her mother, who declined to comment, and her husband, Jacobo Roque, were home when the fire started and were able to escape. Six-year-old Colton Roque, Judy Verchot’s grandson, was rescued by passersby before first responders arrived. Harry Chapin, Judy Verchot’s boyfriend who also lived at the house, was driving home when the fire started.

Fire officials have said preliminary evidence suggests that the cause of the fire does not appear suspicious. The incident remains under investigation by the Turners Falls Fire Department, Montague Police, and State Police assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

Those who would like to donate on the Verchot family’s GoFundMe page can do so at As of Thursday, the page had collected nearly $7,900.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or


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