Debra Smalling

Debra Smalling (Source: LEX 18)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky State Police is hosting a three-day food drive after a Kentucky food pantry was completely destroyed in a fire.

A woman is facing arson charges in connection with the fire.

The pantry is considered a "total loss," and according to a report by LEX18, Debra Smalling was arraigned Monday morning in Garrard District Court. Smalling faces charges of second-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief. Police said she regularly came to the pantry to collect food.

Lancaster City Fire and Rescue said it started right before 10 a.m. Sunday. According to Smalling's arrest citation, surveillance video shows the woman walking to the side of the building and rummaging through some cardboard and paper that was stacked up against the building. The citations said Smalling admitted to placing a lit cigarette on the items, causing them to catch fire.

Co-director Angela Cash said about 100 donated Thanksgiving meals, including more than 100 turkeys, were destroyed in the fire.

"We handed out over 1 million pounds of food out of this building," Gregory Cash said. "It's a total loss right now. We lost everything."

Even though firefighters got on the scene quickly to put it out, the building was destroyed.

Families already wondering how they would feed each other on Thanksgiving are now not entirely sure what comes next.

"We're going to try and continue on as normal as we can, but it's going to take a lot of prayers and a lot of work, because, as you can see, we lost everything," Cash said. "It's a mess right now. I'm still in shock. I don't know how to take it or what to say."

Cash said there were also several gifts for kids with Christmas a little more than a month away. He's familiar with helping struggling people heal.

Kentucky State Police has announced a three-day food drive at the Lancaster Police Department to help the community meet its needs, according to a news release. The food drive will run from Wednesday, Nov. 17 to Friday, Nov. 19.

"Suggested donations include non-expired canned fruits, vegetables, soups and meats, macaroni and cheese, cereal, peanut buter, jelly, chili or spaghetti sauce, brownie and cake mixes, coffee, water, powdered milk and juices," the news release states. 

This news tug at the heartstrings of Rev. Jim Sichko, a priest based in central Kentucky. 

"If it means rounding up those meals, then I'll do it," Sichko said. "If it means helping them with the financial donation, I will do it. If it means going out and purchasing those meals, I will do it."

As the clean-up continues, even those who provide might experience a time of need too. Sichko plans to step up and help. He said he wants everyone to remember the season of giving isn't just now, it's always.

"At any moment, any one of us could be in need," he said. "And I hope people would step up in any moment."

No one was inside at the time and no one was hurt. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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