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Community rallies around Aurora family of 14 who lost home in fire

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The group has come collectively to assist an Aurora family of 14 after a devastating fire at their home on Aurora’s East Side.

Since December 2013, the two-story home on Fort Sumter Court has been home for the Hill-Smith family: Steve and Brandy, their 11 youngsters, and grandma Kathy.

Then, Nov. 16, the dryer caught fire, and so did the home. Now, the family of 14 has no everlasting home. Their garments and different belongings are all gone as properly, victims of smoke or fire or the water used to battle it, the couple stated. Two pet hamsters, every stored in a unique woman’s room, fell sufferer to smoke inhalation, making the loss even worse for the youngsters, Steve Smith stated.

“Everything was destroyed,” Smith stated. “Smoke, water or burned… I have my life, but we lost all our belongings.”

Smith stood outdoors, watching his home burn, then smolder, till the firefighters completed boarding it up and left someday after 1 a.m. Fire officers deemed the home uninhabitable, with complete injury value $125,000.

“I guess the hardest thing for me would be probably that I know my mom and my dad work so hard,” stated Kelvin Foster, the oldest baby at 18 and a senior at Oswego East High School.

Steve is a truck driver, and Brandy drives for Uber.

“They worked hard to get the house and now it’s just like it’s all gone, everything that they worked for,” Kelvin stated.

Help quickly arrived, although, because the neighboring Williams family took them in — all 14 of them — and spearheaded an effort, together with a web-based fundraiser via GoFundMe.com, to relocate them completely. Somehow, everybody — together with all the youngsters who vary in age from 2 to 18 years previous — has discovered a spot to sleep, using couches, futons and donated additional beds.

Since the fire, pals and strangers have donated greater than 1,560 luggage of clothes and footwear to the family, Rhonda Williams stated. Every week after the fire, 95 individuals had donated $four,650 to the GoFundMe account, which has a aim of $15,000.

“You have given brand new and gently used blessings, and each family member’s storage bins are full and overflowing,” Williams wrote in an e mail to Oswego School District 308 officers. “In addition, you have blessed us with enough food to feed a small village.”

The family’s clothes wants have been met, Williams stated, however the family might nonetheless use present playing cards and housing necessities.

Williams is working with the family to safe a home to lease in the Amber Fields subdivision, the place the youngsters would have the ability to maintain attending their present faculties — Oswego East, Bednarcik Middle School and Wolf’s Crossing Elementary.

“This is something most people can’t even fathom,” Williams stated. “Everybody’s heard about someone’s house burning down, but when you really think about the idea of losing everything, starting from scratch… several of the kids, even Steve came out in his pajamas with no shoes on, so the fact everything is gone, that’s pretty traumatic.”

Steve Smith was in mattress asleep, as have been some of the youngsters, he stated, when the fire broke out. At about 9:30 p.m., Brandy smelled one thing burning and awoke her husband. He searched the home and noticed smoke popping out of the laundry room door. He advised everybody to get out of the home and grabbed a hose from outdoors and tried to extinguish the fire, however it had little impact, he stated.

The laundry room door, made of plastic, was absolutely engulfed in flames and was melting, he stated.

“Once the door melted, everything just started igniting,” Smith stated.

Kelvin, simply home from work on the Culver’s on Route 59, was in his bed room in the basement, about to get into the bathe, when his grandmother ran down the steps and beat on his door saying there was a fire, he stated.

“I only had time to put my pants back on,” Kelvin stated. “I grabbed shoes, just ran outside. I was the last person out.”

The steps have been smoky as he ascended to the primary flooring and made his approach outside, Kelvin stated.

“In a way I was scared,” Kelvin stated. “I was just hoping nobody was upstairs or got trapped.”

Now that the family is collectively in their neighbor’s home, Kelvin nonetheless worries about his mother and father’ well-being, he stated. His mother cried about it the opposite day, he stated.

“It’s her home,” Kelvin stated. “It was devastating.”

Kelvin stated the family could be very grateful for all of the donations.

“I think people should know we are OK,” Kelvin stated. “(I want to) say thank you to everybody and I’m blessed.”

The entire family is grateful to these who have helped them, Smith stated.

Williams stated members of the family have been implausible individuals to have as neighbors. That’s one cause she contacted faculty officers about serving to them. She additionally wrote to them concerning the impression of the outpouring of donations.

“You have made this family feel the love and strength of our community,” she wrote.

On Thanksgiving, the Hill-Smith family will spend the vacation with family. Although Williams will probably be out of city, the Hill-Smiths may also rejoice privately at her home with donations from Jewel-Osco and Target, Williams stated.

hleone@tribpub.com

Twitter @hannahmleone



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