SIOUX CITY | Generous people from across the U.S. contributed thousands of dollars Friday to a western Iowa couple who discovered their beekeeping operation had been destroyed by vandals Thursday.
When dusting snow off their 50 hives on Sioux City's west side Thursday morning, Wild Hill Honey owners Justin and Tori Engelhardt discovered their hives and supplies had been ransacked. Nothing appeared to have been stolen, just destroyed.
The vandalism, which Justin Engelhardt called "completely senseless," killed a half million bees and caused an estimated $60,000 worth of damage not covered by insurance, as insurers don't offer beehive coverage. The incident is being investigated by police.
Todd LaCroix began an approved GoFundMe on behalf of the Engelhardts and Wild Hill Honey, saying, "Tori and Justin are wonderful people who have just suffered a terrible loss.
"The destruction of their bees and equipment is not only a financial hardship but has taken an emotional toll as well," LaCroix wrote. "Unfortunately, insurance will not cover the loss of the bees and equipment. Any help is appreciated."
As of Friday afternoon, more than $20,000 had been raised through three different approved GoFundMe accounts in Wild Hill Honey's name.
Justin Engelhardt said Friday he and his wife, Tori, are grateful for the outpouring of community support they have received since the vandalism occurred.
About 24 hours earlier, Engelhardt said the situation "looked really hopeless" and doubted the business could survive the big financial hit. Started six years ago, Wild Hills Honey sells jars of pure, raw and creamed varieties of honey and other honey byproducts.
Victoria Kleber, who identified herself on the fundraising page as a 50-hive operator from southwestern Pennsylvania, said she would also donate "nucs and queen cells this spring" if she lived closer to the couple.
"I hope you will come back stronger and that the perpetrators of this cruel act will face justice," Kleber wrote. "I had ONE hive vandalized last winter and can not even imagine losing all my girls. God bless, and you are in my prayers!"
Bob Gotwals, who identified himself on the fundraising page as a beekeeper from North Carolina, said the vandalism "breaks our hearts."
"Hope you make a lot more than $15K," Gotwals wrote.
Wild Hill Honey plans to restock its hives by spring, Engelhardt said Friday, noting he and Tori are salvaging what they can. They hope to resume sales by 2019.
Contributions can be made at www.gofundme.com/wild-hill-honey-hive-restoration.