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Burned out, split up, but moving forward

Brenda Dail, 47, left, and her mother, Jean McElwain, 84, walk through the rubble of Dail’s burned down mobile home.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Brenda Dail, 47, left, and her mother, Jean McElwain, 84, walk through the rubble of Dail’s burned down mobile home.

BROOKSVILLE — Flames not only destroyed Brenda Dail's home on Camp Castle Road earlier this year, they also split up her family.

With no room at any one relative's home to accommodate Dail and her two children, the family was scattered after the Jan. 28 fire burned their mobile home to the ground.

Dail, 47, stays with her 84-year-old mother, Jean McElwain, some 12 miles from the east Brooksville site of her former home. Son David, 18, is living with his father, David Dail Sr., in Brooksville. Jennifer Dail, 16, is with her grandmother Mary Dail, six miles from Camp Castle Road.

"I don't see them as frequently as I'd like," Brenda Dail said of her children this week. "We're trying very hard to get back together."

Several local charities and service clubs, including the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities and the Kiwanis Club of Ridge Manor, have stepped forward to help the beleaguered family. It has not been easy.

Brenda Dail was at her elderly mother's home on Jan. 28 when a religious candle she inadvertently left burning back at her house set fire to the three-bedroom, two-bath mobile home where she has lived since 1987.

A contractor said he could haul away the charred debris for $10,000. "My family worked with shovels and hands," to aid in the effort, which reduced the outlay to $4,950, Dail said.

After borrowing money to pay off a mortgage of $5,000 on the lost home that the insurance policy did not cover, Dail began looking for a replacement mobile home for the lot, which the family owns. She has picked out a new home, but it remains on the dealer's lot. "There's a little bit of trouble with the bank, which needs paperwork that was burned up," Dail said.

Hernando County also is requiring the addition of a short driveway and apron for the lot. Together with a down payment on the home, this access construction means the family must find $5,000 in upfront costs.

Making matters worse, David Dail Sr. has been laid off from his construction job and unable to pay child support. Brenda Dail is disabled since 2000 from two auto accidents, neither of which were determined to be her fault. Her injuries precipitated a stroke, two heart attacks and a blow to the head that has produced seizures.

The fire left nothing for the family to salvage. "Just the clothes on our backs," Brenda Dail said.

The family has tried to remain strong in the face of these challenges, even finding time to give back to their community.

David, a senior at Hernando High School, is working at a ranch for the summer. Jennifer, an advanced placement student dual-enrolled at Pasco Hernando Community College with several academic awards to her credit, volunteers at Hernando Pasco Hospice and Arc of the Nature Coast.

Brenda Dail said she is truly grateful for the aid already received. "Thank God for the Red Cross. They gave us a $432 voucher to buy kids' clothes and shoes."

Catholic Charities put the family in touch with the Kiwanis Club of Ridge Manor. After multiple approaches to other venues, the club has enlisted the popular Papa Joe's restaurant near the corner of Cortez Boulevard and Spring Lake Highway to sponsor a fund-raiser for the family.

On Aug. 4, the restaurant will host a $10-a-plate dinner, eat-in or take out, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A limit of 500 tickets will be available, Kiwanis president Jim Nico said this week. The Knights of Columbus of St. Anne's Catholic Church of Ridge Manor is assisting in the effort. For ticket reservations, contact Papa Joe's at 352-799-3904 or Nico at 352-799-0901.

>>To help

Dinner fundraiser

Papa Joe's restaurant near the corner of Cortez Boulevard and Spring Lake Highway will host a $10-a-plate dinner Aug. 4, eat-in or take out, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A limit of 500 tickets will be available. For ticket reservations, contact Papa Joe's at (352) 799-3904.

Burned out, split up, but moving forward 07/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 5:57pm]
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