Neighbors are stepping up to help a North Indian Mound family who lost everything in a house fire on Christmas day.
The Mendoza family, three adults and three children, lived in a house on Saida Avenue. While none of them experienced physical injuries, the emotional pain will be lasting. The family was renting the house, but didn’t have insurance.
Alexis and Manny Abarca, who live around the corner on Topping with their two children, saw the smoke on Christmas morning.
“I couldn’t imagine that experience at all,” Manny said. “When [Alexis’] brother called to tell us a house was on fire, me running out of the house to see which house it was, and then thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Christmas,’ it’s unimaginable.”
The Abarcas had seen the Mendozas in passing and knew they had kids, but were otherwise strangers. The Mendozas have lived in Indian Mound for six years, and in the house on Saida for four years.
“It was bad, it felt really ugly because we could see everything burning and we felt really helpless,” Willy Mendoza said. The adults speak Spanish, so Alexis translates. “There was nothing that we could do, we knew that the only things we had was what we came out with, which was basically the clothes on our backs.”
Leilani’s glasses didn’t make it out, but the Abarcas have contacted local services to find her a pair.
Alexis and Manny decided to ask their large network of Facebook friends to help them provide clothes, shoes, basic necessities and Christmas gifts. They started a GoFundMe to raise money to ease the financial stress of the disaster. Mattie Rhodes Center on Topping began collecting donations of housewares and clothing.
“It feels really nice, it’s beautiful to have,” Laura Salas said. “It’s such a sad thing to have gone through, but it’s really nice to have that support from everyone.”
Willy has been out of work due to an injury for most of the year. Between surgeries and physical therapy for his hand, the doctor said it would be at least a year before the pain goes away. Laura works at McDonalds to support Allison, a sophomore at Northeast High School, Richard, 7, and Leilani, a toddler.
They have received many donations of clothes, for which they’re grateful. The family is used to the neighborhood and they like living here, but they don’t have any other family in the area.
“Keep moving forward, stay positive,” Laura advised anyone who might experience a similar situation. “Material things can be bought, but human life is not something that you can buy.”
Now, they will continue working on the house they received through Urban Homesteading in South Indian Mound, but with much more urgency.
The house still needs new tile, new doors, floors, a roof – basically everything. With Willy’s injury, progress has been slow. The family would appreciate help from professionals who are willing to work on tile or anything else.
“We didn’t know our neighbors very well,” Laura said. “You see your neighbors when you’re going to work, when you’re coming home, but you don’t really get to know them until times like this.”
The family is being housed temporarily by a local church until their new home is ready.
They will need kitchenware and dishes, groceries, and furniture when they move into their new place. If you want to make a donation of labor, housewares or furniture, the Northeast News will pass along your message to the Mendoza family. Contact us at (816) 241-0765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.