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Community rallies to fill fire victims' new home

December 22, 2010
TILTON — When tragedy struck a local family last week as a fire swept through their home in the Windy Hill Trailer Park, they were momentarily at a loss for everyday necessities. That changed quickly when local citizens and businesses rallied to provide the family with the essentials they'll need to start over.

Launa Deshaies, her 15 and 13-year-old daughters, and her 27-year-old son escaped harm, and so far they have been able to locate six of their seven cats. Deshaies said they had just moved into the mobile home and she had not yet gotten insurance for it. She arrived on the scene shortly after the police and fire department and was frantic about the well-being of two of her children, who were home when the fire started.

"When the police officer showed me where they were I thought 'Oh thank you God' and didn't even care about the trailer or anything else, but now I realize over 30 years worth of belongings are all gone," she said.

Through tears she said she has worked hard and always done what she could for others but her number one priority was the care of her children.

"Without insurance and everything gone now I thought, how am I ever going to do this?" said Deshaies.

Soon enough, word of the family' plight got out, and donations started coming in. On Saturday Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier dropped off a food basket for them at the Holiday Inn where they had been staying since the fire. The family was preparing to move that day to an apartment found for them by Welfare Director Heather Thibodeau.

While the mother was most grateful for the food, she told Cormier there was no refrigerator in the new apartment and expressed concern about what she would do with the it.

"I told her to head over there and we'd get her straightened out for the rest," Cormier said.

His first contact was Home Depot, which immediately agreed to donate a refrigerator to the family. From there Board of Selectmen Chairman Pat Consentino and her friends and neighbors got involved. One had a bed to donate, and others had items to make the family feel at home. Consentino said still more headed to the outlet mall to buy clothing for the children at discounted prices from Old Navy and Jockey's while she drummed up other donations.

"I called Greviors Furniture, and they said they would set the family up with whatever they needed," Consentino said.

Verna's Auction House in Franklin also heeded her cry for assistance and donated household items the family lost in the fire. Walmart pitched in with a vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies.

In the meantime the Tilton Police Explorers set up a table at the Tanger Outlet Mall. There they collected donations through the TNS Christmas Fund to help the family, and when the volunteers at the TNS Fund finished their annual holiday deliveries they jumped into action to purchase kitchen utensils, hair care items, clothes, outer wear, sheets, blankets and other incidentals.

"We were just doing what we could as a result of the generosity we've benefited from this holiday season and no one had to coax us to do it," said TNS Christmas Fund Chairman Tom Gallant.

Also donated were gift cards from Walmart and Market Basket and other items to help make the holiday joyous for the family. While many people have nicknamed these corporate giants "big box stores," Gallant said this past weekend they showed they were involved on a local level as well and he was grateful for their support.

Cormier said he was especially pleased when Home Depot donated the finishing touch of a Christmas tree and all the ornaments to add a little holiday spirit to the family's new home.

"When I came home to a tree tonight I just couldn't believe it," Deshaies said Sunday evening.

Gallant, Cormier and Consentino all said they were blown away by the outpouring from the community. As deliveries were made to the new apartment on Saturday, Cormier said it just all seemed to come together like an episode from Extreme Home Makeovers.

"It's almost like people knew what we needed. When we were missing dishes, the phone rang and a woman donated dishes. That went on all day long," he said.

An entertainment center, a television set and other things the family lost began to gradually fill the rooms of their new home by day's end.

"Our goal was to get them a refrigerator and beds and a kitchen table but it went so much further. It just shows how a small community can come together," Cormier said.

Deshaies was emotional as she discussed the events that unfolded over the weekend and was extremely grateful for everyone's assistance and generosity.

"For all of these people to do what they've done for my family is just remarkable," she said.

As assistance has poured in Deshaies said meeting her next bills will be a struggle since Public Service Company added a $70 deposit to her first bill at her new home on top of what she already owed. She's an LNA at the New Hampshire Veteran's Home but is currently out on Family Medical Leave for a recent surgery and is finding it difficult to meet the added expenses incurred by the fire. Another worry is her responsibility to clean the lot where her home stood under an agreement with the property owners.

"I have to figure out how I'm going to get that done still, and I have 30 to 45 days to do it," she said.

Other needs are a computer for her daughters for school and the oldest, Nicole, has a full-length mirror on her wish list.

"I'm just grateful we're all here and can be together for the holidays. Everyone has been so amazing and I can't thank them enough for their kindness," said Deschais.

Anyone who would like to continue to assist the family is asked to contact Pat Consentino at the Tilton Town Hall or the Tilton Police Department.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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