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Ceres helps family whose mobile home burned

Felipe and Marciela Garcia, above, lost their mobile home and all their possessions in a fire Jan. 6.  The Ceres community has helped the family get back on their feet by donating household goods, money and clothes for them and their two children.
Felipe and Marciela Garcia, above, lost their mobile home and all their possessions in a fire Jan. 6. The Ceres community has helped the family get back on their feet by donating household goods, money and clothes for them and their two children. Modesto Bee

CERES -- One family has found that a silver lining can shine through a cloud of calamity.

Felipe Garcia had been reluctant that Sunday afternoon to accept his brother's invitation to a family barbecue and a TV soccer match.

Garcia said through an interpreter that the heavy rain Jan. 6 made him want to stay home. But he and his wife, Maricela, daughter Jessica, 15, and son Bravlio, 11, made their way across town anyway.

About 30 minutes after arriving at his brother's Modesto home, they got a call from the manager of the mobile home park where the Garcias lived. Their home was on fire.

By the time the Garcias returned, the flames were out but their home was gutted. Through an interpreter, the Garcias talked about what they saw and felt.

"Everything went up in smoke," Maricela Garcia said.

Christmas had come and gone, and so it was with all their possessions. They had let their fire insurance lapse to pay for food and electricity, so there wasn't much hope of rebuilding or replacing their furniture or clothes.

They had the clothes they were wearing and little else. From her recent 15th birthday, Jessica salvaged only a ring given to her by her grandmother.

It was saved because she never took it off her finger.

The losses may have been irreversible, but the people of Ceres were determined to give the family a happy ending.

Enrique Perez, the community relations officer for the Ceres police, said it's heartwarming to see the community respond. "It's just like our city motto: Together we achieve."

Clothes and money donated

Nicole Chapman, resource specialist with Ceres High School and coordinator of the school's effort, echoed Perez.

"It's not surprising that this happened," she said. "(There's) an overwhelming feeling of people's generosity. In Ceres, whenever something happens, a tragedy, it seems people all pull together."

She cataloged some of the generosity:

The Ceres High staff raised $600 to pay for a new wardrobe for the children and donated some household items, including a couch.

Wal-Mart in Ceres donated a shopping spree to outfit the parents.

Soroptimist International of Ceres collected $570.

The Ceres Lions added $1,750 to help replace household goods and meet temporary living expenses.

Chapman also thanked Ceres High parent Kim Chapman (no relation to Nicole), Ceres firefighters and police officers, Home Depot, Bertolotti Disposal, and Borden Trailer Sales and Services.

For Sam Borden, owner of the trailer business, what happened to the Garcias hit way too close to home.

Borden's parents lost their Service Road home to fire on the same day as the Garcias, Jan. 6.

"Dad saved a lot, but we lost some of the older pictures," Borden said. He expected his father to rebuild on the land they have owned for 38 years.

Borden said he's helping to close a mobile home park in Santa Rosa, so he had extra trailers to donate. Of his family's generosity, Borden shrugged. "We live for the Lord. I'm a servant and this is what I enjoy doing. I sleep well at night."

Felipe Garcia was very grateful for the double-wide trailer that will replace the single-wide trailer the family occupied before it burned. Then, through an interpreter, he marveled, "Because of the people's kindness, we will end up with more than we lost."

All except for Bravlio, who lost his Nintendo Game Cube and all of his games.

Mom said she was sorry for her son, but that wasn't the most important thing.

"I lost my home but have my family," said Maricela Garcia. "They're my treasure."

Staff writer Roger W. Hoskins may be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com or 578-2311.

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