READFIELD — Marlene Webber began keeping a list as soon as the help started rolling in within hours of the fire that destroyed her family’s Mount Vernon home. Webber was determined to send a personal note of thanks to everyone who gave.

But how do you keep up a list when the gentle stream of support turns into a groundswell of affection? How can you send a note when the help comes from someone you have never met?

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Webber said. “I can’t thank all these people personally, but what I’ve been doing all along is to ask God to give each person a special blessing. We thank (everybody) from our hearts.”

Marlene Webber and her husband, Harold Webber, were home Tuesday when lightening sparked the fire at their Wings Mills Road home. When it was over just a single wall was standing in the home the Webbers purchased in 1969.

Since then Webbers have been living with Harold’s sister, Lillian “Betty” White of Mount Vernon. Their daughter, Emily Webber, who had been living at the house to help her parents, has been staying with a friend, Jennifer Booker, in Readfield.

“The girls have been going through the ashes,” Marlene said Sunday, surrounded by her family–which includes another daughter, Joyce Jones–and friends inside the home Booker shares with her partner, Greg Dowling, and their children. “They’ve found precious family photos.”

One of those photos is of a handsome soldier dressed in his uniform before he heads for service in World War II. Kenneth Norton, Marlene’s uncle, was killed when he stepped on a mine.

“He was me and my siblings favorite uncle,” Marlene said, looking at the photo she cradled in her hands. “I just thought I had lost the picture. When I saw the picture I couldn’t believe it. This is family. It just means the world to me.”

So much was lost in the fire: Thousands of dollars in tools Harold had collected over the years; a collection of photography equipment Emily used in her business; and nearly all the photos of the Webbers as a young family.

But far from lamenting the loss, the family marvels at what was spared and what they have learned about their community.

“We’ve always known we have a wonderful community,” Emily said, “but the outreach has been unbelievable.”

Jones said virtually every need has been met, even those of which the family was unaware.

“We’ve never been alone,” she said.

The help started the day of the fire when the Winthrop Ambulance Crew on scene made calls to make sure that Harold and Marlene had the prescription medication and other medical supplies they needed.

The next day Emily started sifting through the rubble. She’s had lots of help, some of it coming from friends she has not seen for years.

And then neighbors arrived with tents and picnic tables to give workers picking through the rubble a place to rest and sort items.

At Dunns Corner Baptist Church, where the Webbers have been active members for nearly 40 years, stations have been set up to painstakingly clean the photographs and other salvaged possessions.

“Every day there are 10 to 20 people rotating through,” Emily said.

Two young girls from that church set up a lemonade stand beside the road.

“They brought us $40,” Emily said. “They came to the site as I was sorting through the rubble. It was really, really sweet.”

Jones is helping her parents navigate the insurance process. They are awaiting word on a final settlement.

“It looks like it will be enough to build a house,” Jones said. “The contents will be the harder part.”

Booker has created two web sites in hopes of offsetting that loss.

One of those sites, a link on the social networking site FaceBook, has daily updates on efforts to help the family. The public link is available by logging onto FaceBook.com and searching “fund raiser for the Webber family.”

Another site, GiveForward.com/WebberFamilyLostEverythingInFire, allows people to give money.

Booker said she hopes to raise $15,000 through the web site, a goal she is not taking for granted given the tough economic climate.

“If everyone who read this story just gave a dollar or two we could meet our goal,” she said.

Those unable to give online can mail checks to the attention of Tony Gould at Dunns Corner Baptist Church, Mount Vernon, 04352.

Donation jars are set up at the Maranacook Market and the Readfield Family Market, both on Main Street in Readfield.

The family has no storage, so they are unable to accept donations of furniture or other household goods, Booker said, but she hopes those who have extra supplies will donate to a rummage sale, the time and date of which will be announced on the family web sites and in the Kennebec Journal.

The Dunns Corner church has scheduled a benefit supper for 5-7 p.m., on Sept. 10.

Donations have already started coming in at the give forward web site. One of those gifts came from a family in Kentucky who lost their house to a fire some time ago, Booker said.

“They said… ‘We don’t know them personally, but we know what it’s like to have your house burn down,’ ” Booker said.

“The outcome has just floored all of us,” Dowling said.

The Webbers believe God has been at work through all of the events of the past week, both the fire and the support that has surrounded the family since. Marlene had, in recent days, asked God to strengthen her faith. In that sense, she said, the fire is an answer to her prayer.

Emily sees God’s work in a T-shirt she used to wear for a singles group at church. On the front of the shirt there is a passage from the book of Matthew in the Bible, “Let your light so shine before Men.”

The bottom of the shirt fell off when Emily lifted it from the debris, but the verse was left intact. Emily took the shirt and draped it over the windowsill in what remains of her bedroom. The shirt, and the verse it contains, has served as a reminder God’s faithfulness over the hours Emily and her friends have spent sifting through the fire’s aftermath.

“This is a Christian home,” Emily said. “This is our banner.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.