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Orange family recovers from fire

With no insurance, musical family thankful, but needy

  • "God was with us," Laurie MacDonald said, of the family's escape from the early morning fire that damaged their home on Main Street in Orange on November 19th. The MacDonald family gathered for a portrait at Erving Evangelical Congregational Church after services on Sunday.<br/>Front row, from left: Vincent Prestigiacomo and Hannah MacDonald. Second Row: Nathan, Laurie and Victor MacDonald and Carol and Seth Hollis with baby Joanna Hollis. Back row: Daniel, Matthew and Peter MacDonald. <br/>Recorder/Trish Crapo

    "God was with us," Laurie MacDonald said, of the family's escape from the early morning fire that damaged their home on Main Street in Orange on November 19th. The MacDonald family gathered for a portrait at Erving Evangelical Congregational Church after services on Sunday.
    Front row, from left: Vincent Prestigiacomo and Hannah MacDonald. Second Row: Nathan, Laurie and Victor MacDonald and Carol and Seth Hollis with baby Joanna Hollis. Back row: Daniel, Matthew and Peter MacDonald.
    Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Hannah MacDonald, 13, holds her 4-month-old niece, Joanna Hollis, after services at the Erving Evangelical Congregational Church on Sunday. Joanna's mother, Carol Hollis, said she has become a light sleeper because the baby often wakes in the night; on November 19th, the morning of the fire, Carol woke around 3 AM to the smell of smoke in her room. Recorder/Trish Crapo

    Hannah MacDonald, 13, holds her 4-month-old niece, Joanna Hollis, after services at the Erving Evangelical Congregational Church on Sunday. Joanna's mother, Carol Hollis, said she has become a light sleeper because the baby often wakes in the night; on November 19th, the morning of the fire, Carol woke around 3 AM to the smell of smoke in her room. Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • "God was with us," Laurie MacDonald said, of the family's escape from the early morning fire that damaged their home on Main Street in Orange on November 19th. The MacDonald family gathered for a portrait at Erving Evangelical Congregational Church after services on Sunday.<br/>Front row, from left: Vincent Prestigiacomo and Hannah MacDonald. Second Row: Nathan, Laurie and Victor MacDonald and Carol and Seth Hollis with baby Joanna Hollis. Back row: Daniel, Matthew and Peter MacDonald. <br/>Recorder/Trish Crapo
  • Hannah MacDonald, 13, holds her 4-month-old niece, Joanna Hollis, after services at the Erving Evangelical Congregational Church on Sunday. Joanna's mother, Carol Hollis, said she has become a light sleeper because the baby often wakes in the night; on November 19th, the morning of the fire, Carol woke around 3 AM to the smell of smoke in her room. Recorder/Trish Crapo

ERVING — Sunday morning, the extended MacDonald family was gathered in the basement of the Erving Evangelical Congregational Church for coffee following Mass, two weeks to the day after a fire destroyed their Orange home.

“We’re thankful to the lord that we made it out of there in time,” said Laurie MacDonald.

Laurie and husband Victor, sons Nathan, Daniel, Matthew and Peter and daughters Hannah and Carol Hollis, Carol’s husband Seth Hollis and their baby Joanna, and Laurie’s father Vincent Prestigiacomo were sleeping in the house at the time.

Laurie MacDonald credits God with simultaneously waking several members of the family in different sections of the large house to the smell of smoke, itself not an unusual occurrence with a wood stove burning through the night.

This time, the smoke was thicker and the lights were out in the front portion of the house.

None of the smoke detectors went off; Victor suspects the batteries died while the family was away on one of their tours as the Christian band, the MacDonald Family Singers.

“If you’ve never had a fire, you never think you are going to have a fire. It happens to other people,” Victor said.

Emergency responders helped teenagers Matthew and Nathan down from a second-floor roof area after Matthew said they left the smoke-filled hallway, but everyone made it out of the home safely in a matter of a couple minutes, according to Laurie.

“I tell people that it was a miracle that we got out,” she said.

The home and the family’s belongings did not fare so well.

While their touring instruments were safe in the bus, other instruments, sheet music and equipment succumbed to fire, smoke and water.

With no fire insurance, the family has been working to salvage what they can of what was for 19 years the family home, and demolish what they can’t.

“We’ve put about 60,000 pounds of burned and soggy belongings and house into the four dumpsters so far,” Victor said.

The three-story house is now down to one story, and they are trying to save the rear portion of the structure as a workspace to maintain the tour bus that supports the family business.

Laurie and Victor said they are thankful to the many friends, family and strangers who have supported them with donations of clothing, food, money and help, whether lending a hand with laundry or the building demolition.

The family owns a second home, just two houses down from their old one, and hope to move in soon.

Victor said they bought the smaller home as storage space for their equipment and music and as an eventual home for married daughter Carol and her young family, but never expected to move in with the whole family, 12 including recently returned son Vincent.

With a small propane heater providing just enough warmth to keep the pipes from freezing, the family are looking at an expensive wood-burning central heat system before they can move in.

The house does have an oil-fired furnace, but it’s old, possibly inoperable, and they can’t afford the fuel, in any case.

Victor said the old home was heated with wood gathered from the forest by his sons.

“Since we haven’t been able to afford oil in the past, I expect we won’t be able to in the future,” he said.

In the meantime, the family is living nearby in a carriage house lent them by a neighbor, and Victor and Laurie said they are thankful the family is able to remain together.

Laurie quotes Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” saying she doesn’t know where to start in thanking the community.

How to help

Witty’s Funeral Home has made its community fund available for donations to the family. Checks can be made payable to the Witty’s Community Fund, with the MacDonald family in the memo line, and addressed to Witty’s Funeral Home 158 South Main St., Orange, MA 01364.

A second fund was established at the Orange Bank of America branch, 85 East Main St., and Jason Royal of the Athol-Orange Elks Club has planned a benefit concert and dinner at the club for Jan. 5.

The benefit is still in the planning stages, and anyone wishing to help or donate toward the event cost or raffle may contact Royal at 978-895-5036.

The family can be reached directly through their website, www.macdonaldfamilysingers.com.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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