BARNUM, Minn. - When Lou Paulson lost his café to flooding back in June, he wondered if his longtime business was finished.
The dining room floor at Lou's Rustic Diner in Barnum was under a couple feet of water. There was no insurance to cover the losses and no money in the bank to rebuild.
"Pretty devastating," says the owner.
That was before Lou's town weighed in.
Friday, it was plumbers volunteering their time. A few days before that it was students and recent graduates from Barnum High school grinding floors.
"We love this place. They're like another family to us," says Hunter Coil, flanked by schoolmates.
Residents of Barnum and surrounding communities have donated hundreds of hours of time, gutting and rebuilding Lou's Rustic Diner, much of the work done with donated materials.
Lou's wife Robin holds a stack of cards and letters in her hands, pleading with the owners to reopen.
"I'm already starting to cry to look at it again," she says.
"It's just like a part of your life is missing," says Sandy Almquist, who stopped by Lou's several time a week, before the flood, for meals and conversation.
When her husband Bob was ill in the hospital, Robin was at her side for support.
Miss a few lunches and customers can expect a concerned phone call making sure everything is okay.
"They're the nucleus of our community," says Sue Jordan.
When her family's business failed during the recession, she says it was support from Lou and Robin that convinced them to stay in Barnum.
"All the love and support that they have given out is coming back to them tenfold," she says.
Nearly two months after the flood, donations are still coming in. Phil Swensson stopped by Friday with a check.
"Their fellowship is just out of this world," he says.
The Paulsons hope to have the doors open for business my mid-August.
Until then, expect Lew's Rustic Diner to continue serving a hardy helping of hugs.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)