The friends and neighbors of a Hampton Bays man who lost both of his beloved pets, and many of his possessions, after his mobile home caught fire last week are now rallying behind him in the hopes of raising some cash to help him get back on his feet.
Hampton Bays Fire Department officials said Michael Wowak returned home shortly before midnight on February 16 to find his home in the Hampton Bays Community mobile home park off Montauk Highway filled with smoke. Though no injuries were reported, Mr. Wowak’s border collie, Missy, and a cat perished in the blaze.
Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin said this week that he had not yet pinpointed what sparked the fire, though he previously ruled out the cause as being suspicious.
“He had just a great, great affection for not only Missy but for animals in general,” Doug Wald, a friend of Mr. Wowak, said this week.
He added that Mr. Wowak, a veteran of the Marine Corps., spent lots of time walking Missy, and chronicled their adventures on his Facebook page.
“Obviously, it’s been just a lot for him to process,” Mr. Wald said of his friend. “He’s basically starting all over again.”
To help Mr. Wowak, Mr. Wald set up a website, www.gofundme.com/6zqfgg, where community members can make monetary donations. So far, more than $3,000 has been raised, more than halfway to the goal of $5,000.
Mr. Wald said he met Mr. Wowak, an independent insurance broker who is in his mid-50s, five or six years ago while singing karaoke at the Outerbanks Restaurant at the Indian Island Golf Course in Riverhead. “He loves to sing, loves it,” Mr. Wald said.
As another way to raise support, and to lift Mr. Wowak’s spirits, his friends have also organized a benefit, which will be held at the Outerbanks Restaurant, off Riverside Drive, on Sunday, March 2, at 3 p.m.
Mr. Wald said donations will be accepted at the door and the suggested admission is $25 per person. There will be a complimentary buffet, drink specials, door prizes, a 50/50 raffle and karaoke. For more information about the benefit, community members can call the Outerbanks at (631) 873-4123 or Mr. Wald at (631) 664-0983.
Mr. Wowak, who is now living with friends in Manorville, could not be reached for comment.
“I hope the community can rally around Mike,” Mr. Wald said, adding that Mr. Wowak has been appreciative and humbled by the outpouring of support. “He’s a good guy and a proud vet.”