January 16, 2011, was just another ordinary day to most people. But for Michelle Colbert and her 17-year-old daughter, Alissa, it was a day they will never forget.
That was the day they lost their home, most of their possessions and their two beloved dogs in a fire. Michelle and Alissa left their Country Acres mobile home together that night to visit friends just a half hour before it went up in flames. "It was devastating," said Michelle. "Everything that I worked for ... it was just gone." The cause of the fire is not being investigated because the Colberts had recently discontinued their mobile home insurance as a way to trim expenses. The mother and daughter lost all of their furniture, electronics, appliances and most of their clothes in the fire. Many precious mementos were also destroyed, including childhood photos of Alissa and her brother Dustin as well as angel figurines that belonged to Michelle's late mother. "I can't sit back and think, 'What if?'" said Michelle. "Things happen, and you can't blame anybody or anything. "I am thankful my daughter and I were not there at the time of the fire. I'm thankful for our lives, that we're safe and that we're healthy. "I've got to move forward," she said.
Michelle and Alissa are moving forward, but say they have had to rely on help from the community — something they are not accustomed to doing.
"So many people have been there for us during this — people we didn't even know. The community has been amazing," said Michelle. She added that friends and other volunteers helped to tear down what was left of their home after the fire and haul it away. People have donated food and clothes. One person even brought them flowers. A couple from Cornerstone Community Church is paying rent and utilities for two months at an apartment on Fourth Street where Michelle and Alissa can live until they find a new mobile home. The Adams County chapter of the American Red Cross has agreed to transport another mobile home to their lot in Country Acres when they find one to purchase. However, the lot was likely damaged by the heat of the fire, and the foundation will need to be repaired before it will be safe to place a new home there. "It happened," said Michelle. "I'm devastated about it, but time will heal." She added, "Sometimes it doesn't feel real, but my daughter keeps me going. She is my rock."
An account has been set up for the Colberts in Michelle Colbert's name at First Bank of Berne. Those wishing to make a donation to that account may do so at any First Bank of Berne branch. The money is designated for the purchase of a mobile home and other essential items.
A benefit for the Colberts is also scheduled to be held at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, at Union Township Hall. The benefit will feature music, door prizes, a raffle, 50/50 drawings and more.
Colberts say "thanks"
We would like to thank all of those who were there for us during our time of need recently when we lost our home and all of our belongings in a fire: Friends, neighbors and family too numerous to mention, the Adams County Red Cross and the Decatur and Preble fire departments.
Also, a big "thank" you to Tom Darling of Darling Construction, Kevin Peterson of Adams County Harvestland Co-op and John and Trudy Eisenmann of Apostolic Christian Church of Bluffton North for all of your help with cleanup.
And, a very special thank you to Cornerstone Community Church and the congregation for their continued help and support.
Sincerely, Michelle and Alissa Colbert