Community Comes To Aid Of Burned Out Family

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Thanks to a profusion of donations from residents and businesses, a family displaced by a May 1 fire will soon have a new home, and plans are under way to rebuild their former rental.

Clairissia Edwards, who is nine months pregnant, said the generosity of Payson is astonishing. Not only does her family have a rental to live in (they signed a lease agreement Monday), they have everything they need to furnish it, as well as new clothes.

“With all of the donations, we won’t need anything when we move into our new house,” she said.

Their former home, at 601 S. McLane, was badly damaged by smoke and flames May 1 after Clairissia’s son, Matthew, 3, started a fire in his bunk bed while the rest of the family slept.

Matthew confessed to fire investigators that he had been playing with a box of matches. Matthew’s brother, Gabrial, 5, admitted he watched his brother play with the matches from his upper bunk, but did nothing to stop him, even after the bed caught fire. Luckily, Clairissia woke up just in time to get the family, including her 2-year-old son, William, and partner, Darold Leneberg, out before anyone was seriously injured.

Neither the family nor the home’s owner, Ed Collins, has insurance. Collins said the home, which he has owned since his father passed away in 1996, is his main source of income.

Luckily, donations to repair the home have poured in.

Earl Chitwood, owner of Chitwood’s Country Cabinets, explained when the members of Payson Professionals At Your Service (P.A.Y.S.), a directory of local professionals, heard about the fire, they decided to pool their resources and rebuild the home at no charge.

The group is currently collecting donated building materials and has already started work inside the home.

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Area contractors are donating the restoration work for the historic home recently burned.

Various contractors are donating labor specific to their business. Rim Country Cleaning and Sunshine Cleaning will clean up smoke damage, Northern Arizona Drywall, LLC will hang new drywall, Bland Family Solar & Electric will rewire, JWM Painting will repaint the 800-square-foot home, Dan Good Flooring will lay new floors and Lowery’s Window and Door will install new windows, just to name a few contractors. Chitwood plans to donate and install new kitchen cabinets. The cabinets were once used for display at Chitwood’s Casa Grande store and are no longer needed.

“We thought we might be able to help these people,” Chitwood said. “By pooling our resources and working together we can make a huge impact.”

“I am very, very grateful, happy and thankful,” Collins said of the help from Payson P.A.Y.S. as well as the building inspector, who has given the go-ahead to begin work.

Clairissia said she is thrilled the home will be rebuilt and feels terrible that her son caused the damage. The family is planning to help with the rebuild, though it has no plans to move back into the home once it is restored because the family is looking forward to getting settled in their new home.

So far, residents have donated the family’s first month’s rent and deposit. Donors gave another $2,200 so the family can stay at the Best Western Payson Inn until they move into their new rental.

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