People across our hometowns help family who lost everything in fire

Published: Sep. 18, 2022 at 6:58 PM EDT
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(WDBJ) - A Bedford County family lost their home and everything they owned in a fire in December 2021.

“I’ve never had to deal with nothing like this before in my life,” said Ronnie Durham.

It was during a Christmas parade when a neighbor called Durham to tell him his house was on fire.

“I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was when I got there,” said Durham. “The fireman wouldn’t even let us get close to the house. We had to stay way back there in the yard.”

Durham lived with his two adopted kids, Rosa and Quin. His wife died more than two years ago, and Durham says losing her memories was devastating.

“All her pictures. All of the things that she held dear to her. We wanted to keep and all of that is lost. Nothing can replace it,” added Durham, with tears rolling down his face.

The family lost their home and everything inside it. Palestine Baptist Church Pastor David Janney met the three of them during an event to give them Christmas presents.

“As I listened to him talk. You have a man that’s in his upper 70s. A widow trying to raise a 16-year-old and a 12-year-old,” said Janney. “And you’re like, giving Christmas gifts is nice, but that’s not going to fix the problem.”

Janney decided to lead the project to build them a new home, something he’d never done.

“I am not a builder or a carpenter in any way. But we started reaching out to churches in the area and you’d be amazed at how many responded,” explained Janney.

12 churches across our hometowns donated and more than 100 community members helped in the process. The family was able to move into a fully furnished home a month ago.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve had in many many years to be able to sleep in my own bed,” explained Durham. “And all the comforts of home we have all three of us together.”

September 18, neighbors and church members celebrated the accomplishment with the family. Durham says he’s thankful to every person who helped and hopes to someday pay it forward.

“Thank God for all the churches and people that chipped in to help make this go,” said Durham.