When fire destroyed Shana Coder-Jones' home, the flames claimed her family's clothes and precious keepsakes -- but its' been the community's response that won't let the tragedy take her spirit.
The 39-year-old's voice trembles when she talks about the help that came from friends, acquaintances and even business associates in Hilmar, Turlock, Merced and Stevinson, where her family has owned land for decades.
Coder-Jones, the owner of Coder's Appliance Parts in Merced and Turlock, has thanked many people for their help since the October fire. She's written letter after letter, but one worry nags her.
"I just feel so bad there were so many people who came and helped, and we don't know who they are, and I just want to say thank you to them," Coder-Jones said, nearly in tears.
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Coder-Jones woke up thirsty on the night of Oct. 27. She usually sleeps with a glass of water near her bed, but it wasn't there. She went to the kitchen to get a drink and noticed the front porch of the family's double-wide trailer on fire. She rushed to wake her husband and get her four children out of the home.
As they opened the back door of the house, the pull of air forced the fire through the front windows, filling Coder-Jones' lungs with smoke. Firefighters rushed to the scene, but were unable to save the uninsured trailer.
Coder-Jones said firefighters believe the blaze was started on the windy night by a cigarette that blew out of an ashtray and onto the carpeted front porch. She explained that the family hadn't insured the trailer because her efforts to adopt two teenaged girls into her family had cost much more than the family estimated. The girls are now part of the family.
News of the fire spread and by morning members of the family's church -- Turlock's second ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- drove the family to the church's Deseret Industries thrift store in Sacramento. There, they picked out beds, dressers, clothes and other needed items.
Diane Kroutil, the church's relief society president, said when the family returned to the Croder property that night, a modular home on the land, which had been a remodel project of Shana Coder-Jones' brother, was filled with people repairing and cleaning it so they would have a place to sleep.
It wasn't just the church that helped; Coder-Jones said a constant stream of friends and acquaintances also pitched in.
"Most people were so concerned with my kids and trying to get them school clothes again, and getting them their school books, and bringing meals while we had not had a kitchen, and even putting food back in the house."
The list goes on.
Coder-Jones' daughter, Sara Jones, who manages the family's Merced store, said companies that do business with her store also generously contributed to the family.
"We wouldn't be where we are now without them. Most people lose everything, and they don't get the help that we did," Jones said.
Kroutil, however, brushes off that there was anything special in the community's reaction to the tragedy.
"Anyone in that situation would have done the same thing," she said. "You can see the good in the midst of all the devastation. It really brings out the good in people because that's what we are here for."
Nonetheless, the outpouring of help has inspired the family, Jones said.
"Times are difficult in this economy. People are starting to see how when you don't have something, how important it is to help out."
Her mother said: "We are so thankful for the people that offered their love and support. That allowed us to focus on putting our lives back together, because it was just so overwhelming."
So from the Coder-Jones family:
Thank you all.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209)385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.