Having lost everything, a Portal family is making do under rough circumstances but hoping and praying for generosity.
Six people — a grandmother, her two children, and three youngsters – have moved from one temporary dwelling to another this month, after an accident on Nov. 9 turned their longtime home to ash.
Now, they are reaching out to the community, in hopes of overcoming one final hurdle to solidifying a permanent place to live.
“It was a Saturday. I was out of town that evening and someone came up to me and told me that my house was burning down,” said Cynthia Raymond, recalling the incident that thrust her family into turmoil. “When we got up there, that’s exactly what was happening. It was devastating. We lost everything. But, there isn’t anything we can do about it.”
Raymond owned her Portal home for more than three decades. Her son and daughter grew up there and, along with the daughter’s three children, were currently calling the place home.
For more than 30 years, Raymond carried insurance on the house. But in 2011, she had to save the money for other uses because of unexpected health issues and slowed business at Exquisite Hairstyles Beauty Salon, which she owns in Statesboro. She never resumed the insurance.
“I kept saying I would go back and get it, and never did; and now something like this happened. It left us completely homeless, with nowhere to go,” she said. “It is a hard situation — one the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life. I try not to, but I cry about it. You work hard, like I have worked hard, to get a place and get it just how you want it. Then, you see all your stuff piled up like that, in ashes, and you can’t help but cry.”
Since that day, the family has bounced around. The American Red Cross provided a couple of days in a motel, and a churched tried to raise money for another evening.
They have stayed wherever room was available.
All the while, Raymond and the family have lived with the frustration of knowing they have a place to go, if only one piece of construction could be completed.
“My daughter has a double-wide trailer (in Portal). We had been working on it for the past 15 months, remodeling. We had just finished when my house burned,” she said. “We have a brand new septic tank purchased, just sitting on the lot. But, we did not have the money to have someone install it and buy a hose that goes with it. If we can just get the tank put down, we will have a place we can go.
“I pray someone can help. I really hope so. If they can, we will at least have a place to go,” Raymond said.
According to the family, estimates show cost to put in the tank at around $1,800.
Susan Jenkins is a friend of Raymond’s and has known her for 14 years.
She reached out to the media to tell the family’s story, with hopes that someone in the community would be willing to help.
“(The family members) are very good people. (Raymond) is a hard-working, good person and just needs some help to have a place to live. She actually owns a rental house, but would rather live somewhere she couldn’t than consider putting the tenants out on the street,” Jenkins said. “If they could just get the septic put down and have the water and power put on at the trailer, then they’d at least have some place to live. I just hope that maybe someone with resources or services could offer their help.”
According to Raymond, several people and churches have already stepped up to assist the family in some ways.
“People have been more than generous,” she said. “We’re grateful that people have already been helping — bringing some food, and giving clothes and a little money. It is a blessing to just have that.”
With health issues a burden, Raymond said it is difficult to work long hours at her salon anymore, but she is trying because of the circumstances.
She said if anyone were interested in reaching her, to offer help in some way, they could do so by calling her at the shop — at (912) 489-5922.
“Right now, we really could use, and we need, all the help we can get,” she said. “We really were left with almost nothing.”
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.