Community rallies for fire victims
PHOTO COURTESY SHARON WEINER
Hudson Dance Studio owner Sharon Weiner organized and coordinated clothing and household item donations for the family to be dropped off at her Main Road location.
There were clouds of smoke in the Town of St. Lazare Good Friday afternoon, March 25, after a devastating house fire on Vallée de la Loire Street left a family of four without a home. The blaze destroyed all their clothing, toys, furniture, and memories of homeowners Eric Fugère and Kerri Chambers Fugère. Sharon Weiner, owner of the Hudson Dance Studio at which the family’s 6-year-old daughter is a student, decided to take action to help the family recover from their loss by starting a donation collection that same day.
“My idea originally on Friday afternoon when I realized that they got home from shopping and their house was gone, was to get them through the next 72 hours,” said Weiner. “During the Easter holiday they’d have no clothes, they’d have nothing, so let’s just put together a few things so that they have at least some toys in the hotel room. I was overwhelmed with how much stuff we received, it was insane.”
Weiner posted to a community Facebook group that she would be at the Tim Hortons location at Côte St-Charles Saturday, March 25, between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m. to collect the donations, and also would accept them Tuesday to Friday at her dance studio on Main Road in Hudson. For those who couldn’t make it in the specified times, she allowed people to bring donations directly to her home, and over the weekend she went to visit people at their homes to collect their donations.
“As I was leaving, people were coming in and flailing their arms, but we were full,” Weiner said. “I had a little minivan, and a gentleman by the name of Alain in a black pickup truck who had empty space in the back and he said to just continue filling up in his truck.”
Reached four days after the blaze, homeowner Eric Fugère said he was overwhelmed at the generosity the community had shown in terms of donations from friends, family, and even perfect strangers.
“The speed that everybody mobilized and supported us was just amazing,” said Fugère of not just the donations, but the insurance assessor who arrived to offer support before the fire was even completely extinguished. “You really get to see the best of humanity in situations like this.”
Weiner was expecting a few bags of clothing and shoes, but got so much more. People brought extra items that they thought the family might be in need of such as Tupperware, hangers, toiletries, blankets, sheets, and towels. Even local merchants decided to donate brand new items including clothing, purses, shoes, and boots.
“At first it was only clothing and toys, but I did also have a local pharmacy in St. Lazare donate gift cards and a few people handed me envelopes that they said specifically had money in them,” said Weiner. “I was a little caught off guard.”
The cause of the fire is still being investigated but the 20-year-old home was completely destroyed by the flames. Though St. Lazare residents for seven years, the family had only been in the Vallée de la Loire house for six months.
Fugère said the couple’s two young children are adjusting well to both the loss of the home and the two eight-month old kittens who perished in the blaze.
“We found the remains of one of the cats and buried him,” said Fugère. “It was sad but symbolic for the kids.”
A few precious things have survived the fire, including a porcelain doll that belonged to the father’s grandmother, and a picture from the couple’s wedding. The family has already had the chance to search through a couple of the donation bags, and have been able to use more than three quarters of the items. Weiner is taking a week’s break in order for the family to continue to search through the donations. The family is currently staying in a temporary residence in Vaudreuil-Dorion through the insurance company, and said they have plans to rebuild at the same location and replicate their previous house on the same foundation.
“Everybody gave from the heart,” said Fugère, “and we can’t express how much gratitude we have for everybody, making us meals, Sharon (Weiner) helping, and perfect strangers pulling up to the house and handing us clothes and handwritten notes from their children. Everyone’s been so gracious and supportive and these things have really helped us cope with it all.”