A family whose home was destroyed when fire broke out in a utility room have spoken of their gratitude to people who have rallied to help.
Jo and Dave Taylor - along with their children and family pets - were left with nothing after the fire badly damaged their home in Woodlands Way, Southwater, in the early hours of last Wednesday.
Family Christmas presents, as well as gifts they had bought for a children’s hospital, have all been damaged.
But Southwater villagers have taken the family to their hearts and offers of help have poured in from friends, neighbours - and strangers - who heard of their plight.
The family has been given money, clothing, blankets, toys - and more. And an anonymous benefactor even paid for emergency accommodation for the family - and pet dog Rufus - at the five-star South Lodge Hotel in Lower Beeding.
Meanwhile, a ‘GoFundMe’ campaign was launched by Southwater resident Laura Carter - and raised nearly £7,000 within days.
“The support we have had is extraordinary,” said Dave, who is minister at Elim Family Church in Southwater which he established with wife Jo in 2013. “It’s unreal to see how much people have supported us. We are saturated with clothes and money.” Other churches in Southwater have also rallied to help.
The family’s nightmare began when Jo awoke to the smell of smoke just after midnight on Wednesday last week. Dave went to investigate and discovered thick black smoke coming from a laundry room. “I called 999 immediately and everyone rushed out of the house,” said Dave.
The family, including children Izzy, 12, Benji, nine and four-year-old Elysia, along with pet dog Rufus and hamster Dexter, were taken in by a neighbour as fire crews dealt with the fire which is thought to have started in a tumble dryer.
Thousands of pounds worth of damage have been caused to the property. “Basically, the whole downstairs has been written off,” said Dave. Also badly damaged were family Christmas gifts and presents which Dave and Jo had bought for young patients at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London. The couple raise money for the hospital every Christmas in memory of their little boy Joseph who died from pneumonia when he was just six months old.
“It’s not nice to have a house fire,” said Dave, “but it puts it into perspective when you lose a human life.”