NORRIDGEWOCK — The Bowring family already had bad luck before their home burned to the ground in January. It was homeowner Maurice Bowring’s fourth fire in the same location.

After the fire, a vicious social media campaign accused the family of four of burning their own house down despite the fact they had no insurance. The comments were so bad they took down a GoFundMe page set up for donations.

Now, a family friend said, donations of gift cards for a silent auction, non-perishable foods for a benefit supper and household items are being taken from area businesses by a person before family and friends can pick them up.

Posters announcing a March 6 benefit spaghetti supper for Maurice and Tornia Bowring also are being removed soon after they are posted.

The Bowrings, their 4-year-old granddaughter, Serenity, their daughter, Kyla, and son, Caleb, lost everything in the Jan. 21 fire at their Walker Road home in Norridgewock.

“I’ve had a few fires down here,” he said in January. “I’ve lost two, three houses down here. My wife says it’s haunted.”

The Bowring family is living in a camper nearby in the meantime. The building and the contents of the home were not insured.

Norridgewock Fire Chief Dave Jones said Monday the fire started in a clothes dryer at the home and was not of suspicious origin.

Family friend Denise Webber said that friends and family asked stores for donations to help with the March 6 benefit, but when they go to pick them up “somebody’s already been there to get them.”

She said that those taking the items are “actually saying they are the Bowrings and going in and getting it.”

So far, Webber and friend Bill Allen have put up posters in 36 stores in Madison, Skowhegan and Waterville, and 25 of the stores have contributed to the Bowrings.

But Webber estimates that at least $200 worth of food and gift cards has been taken by someone not authorized to do so.

Webber said there also is a social media campaign against the Bowrings, but so far have been unable to link the thefts to the Facebook slurs and those on a GoFundMe page set up for the family. The GoFundMe page was taken down because the comments about the family were so vicious.

The Bowrings lost everything they owned in the fire.

“The lights flickered. There was wicked black smoke everywhere all at once,” Maurice Bowring said in January. “I picked the curtain up, and the flames just about hit me in the face. As soon as it got smoky and I picked that curtain up and it was going, we just grabbed the dog, my suit, a pair of ski pants, what I could grab and I come out in my PJs and one slipper.”

Not only do those organizing the benefit supper need the supplies they say were taken for the fundraiser, including cutlery, bread and beverages, but Webber said the Bowrings still need propane to cook and heat the camper they are living in, building supplies and materials and cash to pay for utilities.

Social media commenters have said the Bowrings set their own home on fire. But Tornia Bowring said Monday there’s no reason they would have done that. She said the stress of the fire and the online anger has put a lot of stress on her husband.

“We’re struggling, but we’re all right,” she said Monday. “We just wish people would leave us alone and stop telling lies about us and making it worse on us than it already is.

“When we put the GoFundMe up, people said nobody should be funding them because they had 13 fires and we have had four fires — we’ve lost everything all four times. We have no insurance, so obviously we’re not burning down our houses. People are just mean and cruel hearted. It takes only five minutes to lose everything, but it takes an army to build it back.”

Webber said she put posters at the Skowhegan Subway sandwich shop and at the Skowhegan Burger King.

Pete Dougneck at Subway said an employee told him of a phone call last week from someone requesting a free sandwich platter for the Norridgewock fire victims’ fundraiser, but the caller never came by in person to pick it up.

The flier posted at Burger King has been taken down. The manager at Caswell’s Discourt Wholesale store in Waterville, where fliers and donations had been taken, according to Webber, was not working and unavailable for comment Monday.

The missing gift cards were going to be used to buy items for the silent auction.

Webber said they have not yet gone to the police with a complaint, but wanted to appeal through the media first.

The posters that are being taken down list the benefit dinner, silent auction and live band from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Somerset Abbey in Madison. Donation for the dinner is $6.

The posters also read: “There’s a 4-year-old little girl who needs our help. She doesn’t understand why she has no home or any of her things. Your donations and kindness is what this family needs.”

Tornia Bowring said Monday, “I am still grateful for all the support that people have shown us despite what has happened.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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