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Straughans are bouncing back, thanks to community's help

December 02, 2010
OSSIPEE — The future is looking brighter for the Straughan family seven weeks after an early morning fire destroyed their home and threatened their livelihood, thanks to good insurance and an outpouring of support from the community.

"We do have some very good news," said Kevin Straughan. "We are buying the Kimball house." The family has been staying in a mobile home on Elm Street in Ossipee free of charge that was graciously offered to them after the fire by owners Bernard and Grace Rhatigan.

With young children, pets, farm animals, and a home business to run, Straughan said he and his wife Janna were looking for a permanent home with room to spread out. The Kimball house is located next door to the Straughan's place on Route 16B and the workshop on the property will serve as the perfect retail store for the goat cheese and other farm products they sell. Additionally, the Straughans own a large parcel of land next to the Kimball house that he said they someday hope to turn into pasture land for their animals.

After the fire, Straughan said, thoughts of moving south to a warmer climate or out to the west coast where his extended family lives did cross their minds. "Now would have been the chance to cut all ties. But after the wonderful outpouring from this community after the fire, we now know we are rooted here and connected. And the more people we get to know and care about the more we know we belong here," said Straughan.

Immediately following the fire the offers of clothing, household goods, and other items as well as the number of people who called to simply offer their condolences or their labor was overwhelming, he said. There were a couple of people who stepped in to act as a liaison between the family and the outpouring of community giving. Family friend Bob Peterson coordinated donations of "stuff" while friend Kim Whitefeather coordinated donations of money.

"It worked out quite well. They handled the calls and kept in touch with us…People were so generous. I have more clothes now than before the fire," Straughan said.

The Straughans feel fortunate they were fully insured but that might not have been the case a few years ago. It wasn't until about seven years ago when they were going to raise livestock and sell their farm products when they got farmers insurance and really took a good look at their coverage, Straughan said. "Now I could be a spokesperson for the importance of insurance," he added. Straughan said he feels "just terrible" for what happened to the 1803 home under his watch and now turns the focus to cleaning up the charred remains that have been deemed unsalvageable, rebuilding the family business, and getting his family settled in a permanent home.

The fire scene will likely be cleaned up in the next few weeks. Straughan said he is getting cleanup estimates now and will move swiftly to get it taken care of before the snow falls.

The early morning fire on Oct. 14 was a massive undertaking as it quickly escalated to a three-alarm blaze that started in the barn area, burned through the attached ell and, despite strong efforts by firefighters, burned into the house. Firefighters from as far away as Conway, Sandwich and Wakefield were brought in to help.

Though some animals were saved that morning, 14 goats, 15 sheep, 70 chicks, a bull calf, the family cat and 50 laying hens perished in the fire.

The couple, members of NH Cheesemakers Guild, is known for supplying retail and wholesale goat cheese, eggs and organic poultry. But they are likely best known in their community for starting the Agape Ministries Food Pantry, first running it from their home in 2000 and continuing to operate it and the thrift store at Ossipee Valley Bible Church on Route 16 in West Ossipee. The Straughans have also been parents to many children – biological, adopted, and foster – through the years.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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