Updated Sunday with more information about the victim's volunteer work.
EAST ST. LOUIS — A man who died in early Saturday morning fire was a volunteer with Feed My Peeps, a small nonprofit that delivers fresh food to about 100 families a week across the St. Louis metropolitan area.
The victim was David Washington, 40, of the 1600 block of North 42nd Street.
Jacki Dirksmeyer, founder and director of Feed My Peeps, said the home where Washington resided belonged to Mary McKinney, who was Washington’s aunt. McKinney also serves as a board member and volunteer with he organization in the East St. Louis and Washington Park areas.
Some food and supplies were lost in the fire, Dirksmeyer said. The nonprofit picks up fresh produce, meat and dairy from markets and restaurant chefs and then delivers them quickly to those in need within 24 hours, so not much food was stored at the home.
McKinney and her crew had picked up and delivered many donated items over the holidays with a new van recently purchased with grant funds, Dirksmeyer said.
East St. Louis Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan said a neighbor called the fire department shortly after 1 a.m. after spotting something burning in the backyard.
Three companies arrived to find a heavy fire coming out of the roof and the back of the ranch-style, wood-frame home.
McKinney had arrived at the scene and unlocked the doors for the firefighters. They then found Washington in a hallway. Rescuers attempted to resuscitate him but he died at the scene.
Dirksmeyer founded Feed My Peeps in the fall of 2012. About 10 volunteers deliver fresh food to the homeless, group homes, soup kitchens and families in need in the north St. Louis, south St. Louis County and the metro east.
McKinney has been with the organization nearly the entire time with help from her nephew, Dirksmeyer said.
“She called me yesterday and she couldn’t talk,” Dirksmeyer said on Sunday. “It was pretty overwhelming to lose a family member.”