05/27/13 — Family deals with another lost home

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Family deals with another lost home

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 27, 2013 1:46 PM

Just a few weeks ago, Bobby and Dora Smith had their Rosewood home exactly like they wanted it -- a redesigned porch, a paint job, new hardwood floors.

Then early the morning of May 14, a house fire destroyed all that.

The couple had lived in the house on Charlie Braswell Road since 2004, said their daughter, Tabitha Colgan, who lives in Princeton. They shared the home with their youngest child, Allan Smith, 18, a senior at Wayne School of Engineering, who graduated this past week, and nephew, Nicholas Best, 15, a student at Rosewood Middle School.

"Everybody's fine. They even got the cat out," Mrs. Colgan said. "This has just been hard."

This will be the fourth time the couple have had to start over, she said.

"The first one we lived in Mar Mac. When (Hurricane) Floyd and Fran came, we were flooded," she said. "We started over and then we had to start over again."

That house could no longer be occupied, she explained, so the family put another one on the same property after being advised to just "build it up higher." Mrs. Colgan said officials assured her mother there should be no problem, "unless half the county was flooded."

"When that next flood came, (emergency services) called and said we had 30 minutes to get out," she said, recalling her mother reminding the man of the promise that this would not happen again. "And he said, half of Wayne County was underwater."

That was the second house the family lost.

This time, they moved to a rental property in Rosewood, with seven people living under the same roof. They were there for three years.

Mrs. Colgan recalls the day her sister fell and the floor buckled. The family later learned the dwelling had been a flooded home that had been remodeled, so when her sister fell, it resulted in other problems being discovered, including mold underneath the home.

The Smith's bought the house on Braswell Road in 2004. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a study that was turned into an additional bedroom.

In the days since the pre-dawn blaze that resulted in its being declared a "total loss" -- by an electrical fire believed to have originated from a wall receptacle -- the family has been dealing with insurance and paperwork, while trying to salvage anything that may not have been damaged by fire, smoke or water.

"The Red Cross came out that morning," Mrs. Colgan said. "Then my church, The Bridge, came out. They have been sending meals out. The insurance guy has come, the fire investigator guy came.

"They're now going through everything. They were able to save a lot of stuff inside that didn't get a lot of water damage. Most of the kitchen stuff, and there were some clothes that we were able to keep. It's awful. Can you imagine starting over four times?"

The family was fortunate to readily have a place to stay -- the property next door, formerly occupied by Mrs. Colgan's grandmother, who had passed away.

But every day that they walk outside, there is the poignant reminder of what has been lost.

"That's what's tearing my daddy up," Mrs. Colgan said. "He's a six-time kidney transplant patient, so he doesn't work. He tinkers with go-carts for fun. He's known as the go-cart man.

"He's having a really hard time. He said he just can't keep doing this."

Smith is 48, his wife is 46. She is an exceptional children's teacher at Rosewood Middle School.

"She had hernia surgery in December," Mrs. Colgan said. "She has had lots of complications, just went back to work two weeks ago."

Staff at the school are donating "shared leave" time so that Mrs. Smith can take additional time to deal with the aftermath of the fire, Mrs. Colgan said.

"We're using Facebook as a huge tool, tons of calls and text messages," she said. "I'm kind of letting my church handle part of it."

Mrs. Colgan said she is posting needs online on her Facebook page. Andy Stovall, connect pastor at The Bridge, is also assisting. Those who want to help can call him at 919-735-5411.

She said she is grateful for the outpouring of support from the surrounding community.

"They don't need any clothes right now, lots have been donated, or food, as that's been donated, too," she said. "Right now, it's just prayers."

Fundraising efforts for the family are being organized, starting with a barbecue plate sale later this week, says their other daughter, Catherine Smith.

The event will take place at Rosewood High School on Friday from 4-9 p.m. and will also feature a silent auction. It is being organized by ROCC, Reaching Our Community with Compassion. Tickets are $7 each and can be bought at the door or in advance by calling 919-252-0556.