Monday, February 16, 2015

Melanie's Modesty

Melanie is one of the most kind, caring, and loving women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. She never has a bad thing to say about anyone, and she ALWAYS has a smile on her beautiful face. She loves Rich with every fiber of her being, and I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it must be for her to see him so down on himself.

Rich and Melanie lost their home to a fire. Melanie lost her home. She also lost her sweet dog, Abby.

As a woman I know that our homes help to define us. We make them a representation of our lives and our happiness. Our homes are our sanctuary.

Melanie had a gorgeous home, and the doors were always open to visitors. Her home was inviting and warm.

Now her home is gone.

The brick still stands. But it is no longer warm and inviting. It isn't a happy place. It is scary. It is heartbreaking. It is overwhelming.

She worries that no matter what they do...they will never get the smell out. In all honesty I don't think it is a smell any of us will ever forget, regardless of where we are. She jokes that her house is dirty. But I can tell that the jokes are a mask for the pain. A way to hide that she is sad, and discouraged...ready to give up. 

She stands and stares at her home in disbelief...a lot. We all catch her just standing there...looking...waiting to wake herself from this horrible nightmare. But its reality, and its hard to see her so upset.

She cries a lot. And sometimes she cries over what she thinks is something silly. I cry a lot and it didn't even happen to me directly. I never think she is silly for crying. I think she is incredibly strong. She goes out there everyday even though she doesn't want to. She helps dig even though it is physically taxing. She works in the cold right along side Rich...because like him she is determined that they will rebuild. She will have her home back.

She has even used her tragedy to try and teach a lesson. She has taken a couple of her great nieces down to the house and explained to them how dangerous fire is. And how dangerous it is to leave cords plugged in that are not being used.

Even through all of this though...she still has the biggest heart. You know what her biggest concern is...How will she ever repay everyone for all of their help/charity?!

She is worried that we expect something in return for being there for she and Rich in their time of need. Incredulous, I know.

And I can't even begin to describe in words how appreciative they are for any help they receive right now, whether its being there digging...or donating through the gofundme that was set up. They won't ask...but I will.

Please donate whatever you can, because it is going to take all of us to help them get their home back.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Drive In His Eyes

Rich is one of the most driven and ambitious people I know. He has worked hard his entire life to achieve all that he has...all that he had.

He had a beautiful home that he and Melanie designed together, and put their own blood, sweat, and tears into. He had an amazing garage full of tools and equipment. In that garage was an old school VW van painted blue with flowers, for he and his Flower (Melanie), and a truck that Rich was rebuilding from the ground up. He was excited to get it finished and take her for a spin. It was cherry red. Painted by none other than himself.

He never got to experience the joy of taking that sweet ride.

He never will.

That truck, VW van, garage, is all gone. Lost to a horrendous fire. The van is now sitting on top of a scrap pile. The scrap from the fire paid enough to have a construction dumpster brought out. The remnants of the house are being piled in that construction dumpster.

He lost everything that he and Melanie had worked for their entire lives.

They lost it in less than 10 minutes.

What they haven't lost is their hope. Their drive. Their ambition or THEIR LIVES.

They were fortunate enough to all make it out alive, as well as two of their dogs. But that is all that made it out. However, Abby, a beloved pet, did not make it out. She is resting peacefully on Wood-B-Ranch.

I have watched and listened to Rich and Melanie very closely through all of this. I have learned more about them during this tragedy than I have during the last seven years. I know that they will be okay. They will come out of this stronger and even more driven than before. And their home will be just as amazing, if not more so.

I have also bore witness to true love. An undying love. Because even after all of this they still love each other more than anything in the world. They are all they have in this world right now. They don't lay blame. They aren't fighting. They are there for each other. Concerned for each other. And loving each other.

And I still see that drive in his eyes. That ambition that got him to where he was...will get him back there again. I see sadness. I see a man overwhelmed and so very tired. But most of all I see a man that will move heaven and earth to rebuild THEIR home.

But rebuilding will take money and it will take all of us. And they had no homeowners insurance. So if you have a little extra to spare...please donate here at their gofundme account. Anything helps. Just knowing and sharing their story helps.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Week One: They Survived

Sunday marks one week since the fire at Wood-B-Ranch in Reddick, Fl that completely engulfed Rich and Melanie's home. They lost everything, as you can read and see here. Everyone made it out alive and unharmed, except a beloved dog, Abby.

The heartache is still unbearable as we continue to dig through the rubble, but there is still so much hope.

They have learned that the walls of the home are reusable, and Rich and Melanie are determined to rebuild. It was their home. It is their home. And they will have it again. I have heard talk of floor plans and things that they are going to do differently this time around, and that is exciting!

As exciting as that is, they will need help financially.

They were self insured, but they never imagined that this would happen, and their savings won't cover the repairs and rebuild. They had no homeowners insurance.

They won't get a payout for this.

Right now though, the main concern is getting everything cleaned out of the house, getting the garage and breezeway tore down, and hauling it all away.

The guys have been busy and have cleared out the garage. They have also started to demo the block, and hope to have it completely cleared by the weekend. Then the next item on the list is getting the old roof off and out of the house. And then...removing the piles of sludge and ash.

So much has happened it is difficult to process it all.

Even though it is devastating, Rich and Melanie are hopeful. They are starting to see a little light at the end of this dark tunnel. It has been a long and emotional week...and everyone is so very tired. But we are going to push on. Rich and Melanie need us all, and if you can't be here in person at least be there for them in spirit and prayers.

Should you have an extra bit of money...stop by the gofundme and donate. It is beyond appreciated!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I'm sure you all are thinking just like I did. You assume that Rich and Melanie have insurance that is going to cut them a big fat check.
I wish that I could tell you that was true. I really do.
They had no insurance.
They had what they called self-insured insurance.  Meaning that the house and it's belongings were all paid for, and there was a little money set aside in case any repairs needed to made. But there is not enough self-insurance money for anything catastrophic like this. No one...ever expects this to be them.
There is no big payout. No check. No insurance.
The car insurance does not cover the vehicles that have been lost because it falls under homeowners...which they do not have.
That is why we are desperate to get money together for the Atens. If you have a little to spare, please visit the gofundme account set up by Anita and donate. It is beyond appreciated.
Share their story.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Aten's Message of Hope!

I usually try to keep my blog positive and uplifting, but not this time.

On Saturday, January 31st at around 10 am we received a picture of a house on fire from Richard Aten, Dustin's uncle. It took us a minute to determine if it was their house, or someone else' we just could not believe what we saw.

It was their home.

Their home was engulfed in flames.

The fire originated in the garage, sometime early in the morning and spread quickly through the whole house. The home is a total loss. Rich, his wife Melanie, their son Alex, and two of their dogs made it out. Abby, a very beloved pet of many years, was not so fortunate.

Not much in the home is salvageable, but we are digging. Every little thing that is found, is a little beacon of light, in what seems to be an impossibly dark tunnel. Our family has never experienced anything close to this, and we are heartbroken.

But even through the heartbreak and devastation, life must go on. They have laid sweet Abby to rest, and have begun to start piecing their lives back together. There is Hope. They are alive. They have each other, and the support of an amazing family.

We have started a GoFundMe account for receiving donations to help the Aten's get their lives restarted. I have provided the link here. Anything helps. And if you can't give a monetary donation, please just share their story. Help us to get the information out there so that others can help as well.
I appreciate it, more than words can say for any help and every share, and I know that they do as well. Our goal here is to provide them with some financial assistance, but mostly Hope. Hope goes further during a tragedy like this than money ever could.

And if you happen to be the praying type...please say a prayer for them here and there. We know God is still on our side and he is listening to each of you on our behalf.