Abbotsford fire and police departments are spearheading a community effort to rebuild the home of an elderly couple left with nothing after being burned out of their house.
Bill and Annie Connor, aged 88 and 86, went out for their daily coffee on Nov. 11 and came home to find their Downes Road home in flames.
The property where the couple lived with their son, John, who is in his 60s, has been in the family since the 1920s when Bill's parents arrived in Canada.
The Connors didn't have insurance because they couldn't afford to install an insert in their chimney.
The family was left with little but the clothes on their backs but the response from the people within Abbotsford, and across the province, has been tremendous, with numerous offers of help from individuals and businesses pouring in, said APD Sgt. Judy Dizy.
However, the Connors were feeling a little overwhelmed by the situation and people's generosity, said Dizy.
As such, the Abbotsford Firefighters Charitable Society and the Abbotsford Police Union has met with the couple and agreed to assume responsibility for managing donations and taking care of the family's immediate needs.
Dizy, Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service firefighter Craig Bird and APD Const. Paul Walker are acting as co-ordinators of the project.
Businesses and individuals have already stepped up to ensure the Connors are housed in a hotel and then perhaps a motor home until their home is completely rebuilt, while others have committed to providing a septic system and all the furnishings or electronics the Connors might need, said Dizy.
"We've had lists and lists of people from all over the province saying 'we'll do anything you need,' " said Dizy.
"How can you not tear up when you see that?"
The family was feeling quite anxious after the fire's devastation and the attention that followed, but they are starting to feel more relieved, she said.
"They were feeling quite scared because they didn't know what would happen to them," said Dizy, adding the Connors, being quite shy and independent, didn't anticipate or expect the response sparked by their loss.
"But they are starting to relax a little bit with the huge outpouring from the community, and knowing they will have something to return to," said Dizy.
It's still not clear if the Connor home will be demolished or rebuilt, but regardless, firefighters and police officers are rolling up their sleeves and getting down to work this Wednesday, said Dizy.
The Connors sifted through the rubble of their former home on Saturday.
"We'll save what we can," said Bill, "but there's not much."
On Monday, he expressed his thanks for the community's support, though he was worried about accepting everyone's generosity.
"Overwhelming - there are not any words to describe this - overwhelming," he said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Connors' home construction is asked to call Sgt. Judy Dizy at 604-835-1316, while those wanting to make a financial contribution can donate to a trust account at TD Canada Trust, account number 9035-6371813.
Donations can be made at any branch in trust for Bill and Annie Connor.
- With files from
Glenda Luymes, The Province