I always enjoyed the community that I live in but I never realized how powerful a community could be until tragedy struck my family. When I was in fourth grade, a driver under the influence drove his car into the side of my house, striking the gas main, setting my house on fire. My mother, brother and I were home at the time and I heard a loud noise. We didn’t realize what had happened but I knew we needed to get out of the house. When we ran out, we saw the car and the fire and I knew it wasn’t good. We lost everything in the fire that night but the next day we would learn that we had what really mattered.

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As soon as word got around about what happened, people from everywhere stepped up to help us. It was overwhelming to see how many people from our community wanted to help us. My father is a volunteer firefighter with the Selden Fire Department and besides being there the night of the fire, the fire department immediately organized a donation drive for us to collect clothing, toys and gift cards. The Selden Fire Department also held a spaghetti dinner and auction with help from Jericho Elementary PTA, where my mom volunteers. Many other schools in the district held donation drives, too.

My Girl Scout troop, as well as other troops from Service Unit 645, donated clothes and gift cards. The fire was just before Easter, so one of my best friend’s troops donated a basket of food and supplies to help us celebrate the holiday. My brother’s Boy Scout Pack 362 also donated clothes and gift cards. My brother and I played Middle Country soccer and the organization donated a weekend of concession sales to help us. I am so thankful for the kindness of my neighbors, as well. They offered to help by bringing us meals when we were at the house cleaning up, shoveling snow and offering us a place to wash up before our trailer home arrived. The most amazing thing were the people from the community whom we had never met, who mailed us clothes, toys and gift cards! These people gave from their hearts to a family they did not know because they knew we were in need. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful, caring people of the Middle Country community. They changed the worst day of my life into an eye-opening lesson on what it means to be a community. I will be forever paying it forward. Oh, and in case you were wondering, after a long year in a trailer on our front lawn, we are now back in a brand-new house that we made our home again with the help of our community.