The Pecanac family came here from a Civil War torn Croatia with just suitcases and a desire to realize the American dream.
25-years later, a net of support is being extended to help the family rebuild its beloved Westville restaurant destroyed by fire three days before Christmas.
“Everyone wants to help. It’s hard not to,” said Blake Vissing.
He was among friends and other supporters during a Tuesday night give back at Burn ‘Em Brewing in Michigan City.
All of the proceeds from a specialty brew went toward helping Olga Pothorski and her mother, Esada Pecanac, get back on their feet.
Pothorski said she and her mother will decide their next steps after hearing back from their insurance company on the amount of coverage.
“We’re just going to take it one day at a time but we know if we do get the opportunity we’re going to rebuild. That’s the goal,” Pothorski said.
The Collective, a group of northwest Indiana business owners helping each other in areas like customer service and marketing, contributed another $2 for every pint of specialty brew sold.
The group also created a Go Fund Me Page and has two other give back nights scheduled with the goal of raising $10,000, said Mandy Krickhahn, a member of the The Collective.
Krickhahn, owner of The Spoiled Housewife, offers organic skin care products out of her home in LaPorte, online and in various markets and stores.
“She’s just a very caring and giving person so when this happened all of us came together and wanted to do something,” she said.
Olga was just 5 when she came here with her mother and father helped in establishing roots here by a cousin from Valparaiso.
Her mother just graduated from a culinary school in Austria with the goal of starting a restaurant.
Opportunity knocked more than 10-years later at an old Ford dealership her father renovated into Olga’s Place serving Mediterranean style dishes like pizza, pasta, pierogis, stuffed cabbage and seafood.
Pathorski worked in the restaurant while attending high school and Purdue North Central where she received a marketing degree.
She and other mother have experienced a roller coaster of emotions ever since the blaze.
The outpouring of support has helped keep them going.
“We just served great food. Homemade. I didn’t know it was going to make that big of an impact on them,” Pathorski said.
“We was not rich but people’s were very happy. I was happy doing my job,” said Pecanac.
Greg Coulter, a former classmate who once worked at the restaurant, said the staff and customers were treated like family.
He said Olga and the people she comes into contact with seem to gravitate toward each other.
“Very friendly. She’s a friend to everybody,” Coulter said.