Community helps repair fire-damaged home of former Brownton mayor battling cancer

Through two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, Jay Werner has been in a battle with brain cancer for seven and a half years. But in January 2022, his wife and two sons were hit by another setback, when smoke from a kitchen fire ruined their home in Brownton, Minnesota

"I thought we can clean it, we can fix it, we’re going put it back together, and we couldn’t," Jay’s wife Shalon Werner told FOX 9 on Saturday.

After four months out of the home while it was being cleaned, they were able to move back in. But in 2023 they received more bad news: their insurance company was ending their relationship. After finding a new insurance company, they would learn that the company required some work on the exterior of the house to move forward.

On Saturday, more than 30 volunteers got to it, scraping and painting to seal up every nook and cranny on the exterior of the house. They also replaced plywood in the walls of the garage, to meet a winter deadline set by the insurance company.

Werner is the former mayor of Brownton, and many in the small town of less than 1,000 people say he used the office to help others. Now, this is their way of returning the favor.

"If the table were reversed, they’d be doing the same thing for everybody else… she would give anything to anybody, so this is our way of helping them," volunteer organizer Michelle Gens said.

"The emotions are all over the place," Shalon responded. "[I’m] just so honored, and taken back on how much support we have received." Shalon didn’t know where to turn or what to do about the home repairs. Now she says she’s learning to accept help; leaning on a supportive community that’s rallying around her family during this tough time.

"I want to thank everybody, our family, our friends, this amazing community, for everything that they have done for us," Shalon finished. "Jay can’t say thank you enough, he tries and unfortunately sometimes just can’t communicate very well."

The Werner family continues to accept support from the community, through Venmo at @Shalon-Werner.