Volunteers rally to help fire victims
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
The flames ate through the plaster and wood in Adonia Gould's rental home in Munjor, but her daughter's unicorn collection survived.
The small things brought the family solace when they became homeless weeks before Christmas. The Dec. 9 ceiling fan fire cost approximately $60,000 in damages, but the price could have been beyond calculation.
Neither Gould nor her 11-year-old daughter, Marie-Lyn Castaing, were hurt in the incident. The front room and the loft above it were ravaged by fire and water, and the rest of the house suffered from smoke damage.
"My daughter and I got out perfectly safe, and that's the main thing," Gould said. "The rest of it is just stuff that we can replace."
As the two piece their lives back together while living at a local hotel, the community has rallied to rescue their holiday season. Gould's church, High Plains Baptist Church, collected more than $500 and gave them storage space for their belongings as they search for permanent housing. Hays USD 489's Transportation Department, Gould's employer, also provided assistance to the family.
Castaing, a sixth-grader at Hays Middle School, said clothes were donated to her school, and teachers shopped at The Mall for the family.
The home's front room experienced extensive fire and water damage.
"All you could see was just the insulation splattered all over the place. It was nasty," Castaing said. "And when you walked ... it was just like squish, squish, squish."
The family was not able to save a prized belonging from her early childhood when they evacauted the home, and smoke seeped into it.
"My E.T. is like my favorite stuffed animal besides my unicorns because it went through kindergarten, first grade, second grade and everything," she said.
The Knights of Columbus Council in Munjor also sprang into action. David Leiker, membership chairman, heard about the fire on the radio and used the Knights' resources to give the family a $500 shopping trip to Walmart to buy food and clothes Friday.
Leiker said all the Knights' councils in Kansas donate to an internal charity collection called Pennies from Heaven, and its funds are distributed through its Emergency Disaster Aid Program. The council and the Leiker family also both donated $100 to Gould.
Charity is one of the principles that define the Knights of Columbus, and the fire was an opportunity to help. Leiker also feels drawn to make a difference.
"This is my favorite kind of Christmas gift. ... I get more satisfaction, more heartwarming out of that than any package under the tree," Leiker said.
Gould said the community's outpouring of support during her crisis reaffirms the true meaning of the holiday.
"It shows you the Christmas spirit is alive and well," she said.
Tracy Mintzmyer, a family and church friend, accompanied the two on the shopping trip.
"It's part of being part of the family of God," Mintzmyer said. "Whenever someone is in need, just help them in whatever way you can."
Anyone who wishes to donate to the family can call High Plains Baptist Church at (785) 628-2558 for more information.