Marina McIlvain benefit raises more than $20,000

KateLynn Slaamot

Photos courtesy of Brenna Crawford

Nikki Johnson and Denise Feist help serve food at Marina McIlvain’s spaghetti feed and auction benefit on Sept. 29. 

KateLynn Slaamot

NLJ Reporter


Weston County and the community of Newcastle have a long history of coming together to lend a hand when one of their own falls on hard times. One such example was the spaghetti feed and silent auction benefit for Marina (Podio) McIlvain on Sept. 29 at First United Methodist Church, where the community raised more than $21,000 for McIlvain and her young daughter, Kimber. McIlvain was involved in a motorcycle accident on July 10 with her husband, Chrisjen, who died in the accident. McIlvain is the daughter of Andy Podio and Wendy McCleary. 

“Marina suffered severe injuries and has required extensive medical care. While she continues to improve, she still requires continued rehabilitation and care,” said a donation letter from Meridian Mortuary, where McIlvain is employed.

The mortuary, along with Gillette Memorial Chapel and Walker Funeral Home in Gillette, organized the fundraiser for McIlvain to help cover costs accrued from her extensive and continuing medical care. McIlvain has been the funeral director for Meridian. Many others, including close family and friends, also helped with the event, and over 60 silent auction items were donated by both businesses and individuals. Food for the event was also donated. 

Brenna Crawford, interim office manager at the mortuary, said that coworkers of McIlvain were distraught about what happened to her and wanted to help someone who has been so instrumental to the community. Crawford said that in her short time at the mortuary, she’s seen just how much McIlvain means to the people from the community who have checked in on her.

“Many people who she (McIlvain) helped during her time here have been calling and stopping by to check on her. She definitely touched a lot of people in our community as a skilled, compassionate and professional funeral director,” Crawford said. 

McIlvain said she is “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of love and support from the community and couldn’t
get through this hard time without their support. 

“I don’t think we could do it without everyone coming out and being willing to do that,” McIlvain said. “I just want to thank the community for everything they’ve done.” 

McCleary expressed gratitude for the large turnout at the benefit.

“I never dreamed we’d get that kind of turnout. It’s overwhelming just the amount of support the community has been willing to give,” McCleary said. 

The fundraising event was extremely successful, and Crawford said that anyone who didn’t make it to the benefit can still help by sending donations to Meridian Mortuary, care of Marina McIlvain, 111 South Railroad Ave. Checks can be made directly to McIlvain. 

“The event was a huge success, and we couldn’t have done it without everyone who attended, helped, donated and shared the evening with us,” Crawford said. 


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