Fire-struck family exult at kindness
A family who lost almost everything in a devastating house fire has been overwhelmed by the support of strangers.
Hemi and Stacey Howard, and their three young sons, had few possessions left after a chimney fire tore through their rented home on May 1.
Their story appeared in the Waikato Times on May 3 and Matamata and the wider community came forward with countless offers of clothing, toys, furniture, money - anything they could need.
"We are just absolutely blown away," Stacey said.
"To every person . . . the kids who went through their toys to give to my kids . . . big or little, everything was majorly appreciated.
"To us, thank you is not enough but just thank you so much.
"We would have been absolutely lost without everyone's support.
"What the Matamata community has done has meant the world to us. Because of them, we are going to be able to rebuild our home."
The family has been staying in a small cottage since the fire but will be moving into a permanent rental property next week.
They have had so many offers of furniture, they could have furnished the house three times over.
Clothing, toys, bedding and other household items had flooded in and anything the family didn't need would be donated to the Matamata Community Chest, Matamata Baptist Church and Red Cross Te Aroha.
"The decent thing we can do is pay it forward and try and help someone else," she said.
Along with all the local businesses the family thanked the Taupo woman who collected seven boxes of donations and drove them to Matamata; the boy, 11, who donated all his old toys and a Playstation console and games instead of selling them for himself; and the farmer who offered to pay for an entire year of contents insurance for the family.
"From how we were feeling before to now, it's just a massive difference," she said. "I can't explain it, we are just so happy."