LAKE PLACID - One Wilmington family has been going through some unbelievably tragic times lately. Fortunately, many people in the community have helped to soften the blow.
Randy Patterson, Tammie Knox, and their four children, Deyondra, 11; Dustin, 8; and five-year-old twins Danaya and Dariana lost most of their belongings, including several pets, in a Dec. 21 fire that destroyed their home at 37 Juniper Lane in Wilmington.
And the holidays have proven rough for the Pattersons. In addition to losing their home, the family vehicle broke down on Christmas Eve and, on New Year's Day, Patterson's grandfather passed away.
While the time since then has, no doubt, been a struggle for the Pattersons, an effort by fellow community members has given them much-needed support in a trying time.
Neither Patterson nor Knox were at home when the fire struck, and all four children were in class at Lake Placid Elementary School. Patterson and Knox went to pick them up as soon as they received word of the fire.
News of their loss resonated among the children's teachers, and soon the wheels were in motion for a massive clothing and food drive.
"We heard about it around 1:00 or 1:30 that day, and people just jumped into action," said Lake Placid Elementary principal Rick Retrosi, noting how the school became somewhat of an unofficial clearing house to benefit the family.
Teachers and staff were able to determine clothing sizes for the children, and e-mails went out to parent and teacher organizations alerting people of the need.
"Faculty members contributed in the form of either clothing, money, or gift cards," said Retrosi. "People responded with all kinds of clothing, new and older clothing, and brought all their stuff to the school."
Meanwhile, the family made arrangements to stay with Patterson's parents in Lake Placid, where many of the donations were already being delivered.