CHAMPLAIN — After a fire that left the Cone family homeless and living in a hotel, the family of six moved into their new home just in time for Thanksgiving.
Christina and Jarrod Cone were thankful that they and their children were able to leave their burning house safely.
“We were eating dinner, and we saw smoke coming in the wall,” Christina recalled. “The mudroom and garage area were full of smoke.”
The family immediately left the house, wearing sandals and slippers, and walked across the street, where they watched the garage and house burn.
“Everything was gone because of smoke damage; everything was melted,” Christina said.
The only items they were able to salvage were pots, pans and silverware.
They lost the family vehicle, but Christina said the sentimental items are missed the most. Their photos were digital, but crafts that the children made can’t be replaced.
Nine fire departments responded to the fire, according to Christina, and the American Red Cross wasn’t far behind.
“The Red Cross was there immediately, before the fire was even out,” she said.
Jarrod and Christina and their four children — Alex, 7; James, 6; Geri, 2; and Dylan, 4 months old — were clothed, kept warm and fed before the night was over.
With no possessions to their name, the Cones took up residence in a local hotel for a week. But it wasn’t long before the community started to respond to the tragedy.
“The charity just started rolling in,” Christina said.
OUTPOURING OF HELP
Most of the assistance came from Clinton Community College, where Jarrod works as an assistant professor. The family moved to Champlain two years ago, when Jarrod accepted the job.
“We’ve got furniture from everybody that works there,” Christina said.
Various student organizations and even individual students made donations to the Cones.
“They held so many fundraisers,” she said.
A book drive, a spaghetti dinner and a bowling night were planned for the family, and a Northeastern Clinton Central School class donated an entire Thanksgiving dinner.
“The biggest challenge was being able to accept it all, at first,” Jarrod said. “People were so generous, it was overwhelming.”
Friends and community members are still making donations, and recently Jarrod brought home an Elf on the Shelf for the children from a co-worker.
“They (the children) are making out like bandits,” Jarrod said.
A local organization paid for figure-skating lessons for the children, and another bought new hockey equipment for James.
“The word is resiliency,” Jarrod said about his children’s reaction to the fire.
Though they went to see the damaged house, he said, it was better not being faced with it every day.
“The first night was so frightening. We didn’t know what to do,” Jarrod said. “It’s gotten better every day.”
Christina said that all the donations and help they’ve received are a positive reflection of the community.
“Everyone says, ‘This is the North Country; this is what we do,’” she said. “There are good people here; they look out for each other.”
Jarrod said the family plans to become more involved in the community, volunteering their time as a way to pay it forward.
“We’re the happiest we’ve ever been; we learned what matters,” he said.
Christina wrote to the Press-Republican to thank the community in a Letter to the Editor.
“It was with trepidation that we relocated to this area two years ago, as it was a big change for us,” she wrote.
“We are delighted and very proud to call you, the people of Clinton County, our family.
“You truly make wonderful neighbors. Thank you.”