BROOKSVILLE — Volunteer Sharon Brown has solicited donors and gifts, decorated Christmas trees and distributed gifts for more than 10 years with the Christmas Angel Program in Hernando County. Now, she is in need of household goods and clothing for her grandson and his family, victims of an Aug. 31 fire that drove them out of their three-bedroom mobile home on Sacramento Avenue.
Amanda Stemple, fiancee of the grandson, Larry Gaudig, awoke to the smell of smoke in the early hours of that Saturday morning. Stemple and Gaudig got their three children to safety.
Gaudig was directing water from a garden hose into the single-wide structure when firefighters arrived.
Assistant fire Chief Kevin Carroll of Hernando County Fire Rescue said the smoldering fire in the living room ceiling resulted from an electrical malfunction, caused by a wire that had been chewed by a rodent. It produced more smoke than flames.
Although Gaudig and Stemple were able to retrieve furnishings from the rental home, they all reek of smoke, the couple said. Most aren't salvageable. The couple did not have renters insurance.
Since the fire, the family of five has been living with Brown; her husband, Ed; their two young girls, and three dogs in a three-bedroom double-wide mobile home on nearby California Street.
With eight people in the confined space, Brown conceded, "We have our hands full."
She and her husband are taking blood pressure medication. Sharon Brown has since suffered a flareup of shingles.
Gaudig and Stemple are in search of a modestly priced rental property of three or four bedrooms, preferably within the Pine Grove Elementary School attendance zone so that son Landon, 6, can continue in his first-grade class there. The family also includes their daughter, Syber-Marie, 1, and Stemple's daughter, Ali, 2.
Gaudig is employed by Carpenter Contractors of America, based in Winter Haven. Stemple is an occasional bartender at a Hernando County club.
According to Stemple, the family's needs, which will be held in a unit at Spring Hill Mini-Storage in Masaryktown until living quarters are obtained, include: a queen-sized bed, two twin beds and a princess bed, three dressers, living room furniture, a washer and dryer, a kitchen dining set, kitchen ware, a student desk and TVs.
Also requested are clothing: men's size medium to large, women's size 9 to 11 or medium, boy's sizes 5T, 6 and 7, and girl's 2T and 4T.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.