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Teacher seeks #039;helping hearts#039; to rebuild shop

As he watched the tears trickle from Doris Hopper's eyes as she took in the charred remains of her husband's tackle shop, Daniel Hartwig reached a crossroads.

"It was heartbreaking; it really was," Hartwig said. "At that point, either you do something, or it seems like you don't care. At that point it was time to do something Š it was time to try."

When Vic's Bait and Tackle Shop was consumed by fire on May 2, Hartwig lost his favorite spot to stock up for his frequent fishing trips, but Hartwig knew that owner Vic Hopper had lost much more.

Hopper, a 76-year-old with no other income except Social Security, had lost his livelihood. So Hartwig decided to do what he could to get it back.

Hartwig is not an accountant, he doesn't have any great experience with fund-raising campaigns, he's an artist and an art teacher at Ohio University Southern.

What he lacks in experience however, Hartwig makes up in faith.

The art teacher knew he could spare a couple hundred dollars to put Vic back on his feet, and he had faith that there would be others willing to do the same. From Hartwig's faith, "200 Helping Hearts for Vic Hopper" was born.

The plan is simple enough. Hartwig estimates that around 200 people visit the shop regularly, and he believes that they can each spare $200 for Hopper. Hartwig said he believes that $40,000 would be enough to rebuild the bait shop.

It's a lofty goal, but Hartwig is trying to be realistic. He knows that $200 can be a big sacrifice, so he is also accepting smaller donations. But he has faith that others will also be able to make the $200 sacrifice.

Hartwig will use his artistic ability to craft a plaque that will recognize donors. The plaque will be formed from driftwood collected from the riverbank, which he sees as a permanent reminder of the shop's rebirth.

"There's a bit of symbolism involved in it, taking something that's pretty much useless and actually making something from it, something that is new again," Hartwig said. "It's kind of like what we hope the bait shop will be."

Hartwig has opened an account, which is accepting cash or checks made out to Vic's Bait Shop, for the Hoppers at Liberty Savings Bank at 314 Park Ave. in Ironton.

He has received some donations, and is hopeful that he will somehow be able to meet his goal.

For now, however, Hartwig will comb the riverbank for driftwood, and wait to see if his faith in his fellow man has been well placed.