After the Fire

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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Life trying for family of 11 since May 8 blaze

Twins Leland and Shandi don’t understand why they can’t live with their mommy.

The four-year-olds cry every time their mother, Nancy Fleming, leaves.

They wonder why things can’t be like six weeks ago, when they lived with their parents and seven siblings under one roof.

But that was before fire destroyed the blended family’s Elliston home and took their belongings on May 8.

Family life since the Mother’s Day blaze has been almost non-existent.

The 11 members of the clan are spread out over three different homes in two communities.

The kids, who range in age from two to 18, miss their brothers and sisters. Family get-togethers are rare and near impossible. And the twins remain puzzled about why Mom always has to go.

“It’s hardest on the kids,” says father Kenneth Cole. “The small ones don’t understand what’s going on.”

His explanation to them is quite simple — they’re waiting for a house.

“We don’t know what to be telling them. I finds that hard,” Cole says.

His common-law wife also finds it tough and feels like she doesn’t have control over her children anymore.

“We had some kind of a routine, and when I get them all back together again, I’ve got to start that all over,” Fleming says.

The couple isn’t even living under the same roof. They’re both staying with their parents. They each have kids with them. The remaining children are at Fleming’s sisters’.

Cole, who works seasonally at the Plate Cove crab plant, says it’s a challenge having to buy groceries for three homes.

The fire and its fallout are the latest in a run of bad luck for the family.

Seven-year-old son Simon is on an emergency list for a kidney transplant. And their car was lost to hurricane Igor, the brutal storm that also stole their front lawn.

“I don’t know if it could get any worse,” says Fleming.

“But as someone said, ‘Don’t say that, because you don’t know what could happen.’”

If there’s a bright spot, it’s the support they’ve received.

A committee has been struck with the goal of raising upwards of $200,000 to rebuild the home, the debris of which was removed shortly after the fire so the six school-aged kids wouldn’t have to pass it every day on the bus.

People have been generous with donations of clothing, too, and companies are making in-kind donations.

Fred Cuff lives across the street from where Cole’s house stood.

He’s heavily involved in the effort to get them back under one roof.

“This family has had it hard, and this community — not only me — felt we had to do something to help this family out and get them back together,” he says.

So far, more than $40,000 has been raised.

Cuff says donations are coming in slower than he’d hoped, but he’s confident the target will be met. He notes the amount needed might be less because of the in-kind contributions from various companies.

Support from businesses is already allowing things to proceed.

A contractor is preparing the site for footings and it’s hoped the foundation will be laid in a couple of weeks, after house plans are finalized.

“As you can appreciate, this is not your three-bedroom house,” Cuff says. “It’s a large family. We have to have a large enough house that’s practical and can accommodate them over the next few years.”

They hope it’ll be finished by September.

To make it happen, the committee is launching a province-wide tag initiative similar to the Janeway balloons or the little tents Tim Hortons sold for Camp Day.

Cuff says they’re also planning a 15-kilometre road race where runners trot out to Cape Bonavista and experience two bays. (Further information will soon be available at www.bydbaysroadrace.com.)

All the effort and support has touched the family.

“A lot of people are coming forward and helping out,” says Cole. “‘It’s great.”

He and his partner say their new house can’t be built soon enough.

“I’ll be a lot happier then,” Fleming says.

Donations can be made at any Scotiabank care of “Fred Cuff in trust for Kenneth Cole Family.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Tim Hortons, Scotiabank

Geographic location: Plate Cove, Cape Bonavista

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Recent comments

  • sitting on a fence is a heartless being
    June 21, 2011 - 01:27

    It is nobodys business wether or not they are using birth control. What makes people think of such things? If she wants 20 children it is her right. Has anyone considered that she could of taken in children that need families? Or her own childrens children? All that matters here are the kids. These beautiful kids have lost their home and their consistent lifestyle that they are used to. Children cannot learn and grow up properly without consistency. Otherwise they learn to be heartless and selfish like "sitting on the fence". Please consider these kids and the need for their family to be reunited again. So that they can regain their lifestyle and become a happy family again and learn how important helping your neighbour is. Someday you may be in need, and these kids may be your neighbours. I bet they would be the first to help!!

  • Insuarnce pays
    June 20, 2011 - 08:06

    Insurance isn't NEVER an option unless you can afford to start from scratch on your own. Example,Danny Williams can afford to be bold enough to cast off insurance (of course,he isn't clueless so he certainly wouldn't...)...people who can't afford to pay house insurance should RENT. Plain and simple. And by the way,I am sympathetic to their plight but I am SICK to death of hearing how, "They just couldn't afford it". Complete baloney...when something is *required* you always find a way. Our house insurance is less than $40 a month and it's a substantial policy. If you have 9 kids and can't afford $40 a month...well,you had major issues LONG before your home burned to the ground. No worries though,they'll get a new home....and guess what?,I bet they find some way to "magically* insure that one though. Then again,why insure something when you can get it replaced for free? I guess they'll flip a coin on that one.

  • Sitting on the fence about this
    June 19, 2011 - 20:43

    I do feel for this family, and understandably they need help. But to expect people to give, wouldn’t the public have a right to have some details about this families lives. I feel if you are asking the public for this much generosity they open the door to disclose personal aspects of their lives. 1; how did the fire start, with so many scams now a days, it would be nice to know how it started. And I am not implying anything by it, just would like the facts. Is it under investigation, or just accidental 2; A comment was passed about the car they lost in Igor. If they didn't have insurance on the home, did they carry a policy on the auto. If not what would have happened if they hit, hurt or killed someone while driving. 3; I never heard the family say they couldn't afford insurance, was it just a choice or could they really not afford it. Do they smoke or drink, if so they could have quit that and put the money towards home insurance. If I am expected to feel for them I just would like to know more facts, and I know some of you will jump all over me for questioning about this family after all the misfortune, but what’s wrong with a few questions. And if they are honestly really do on their luck, why have such a large family if they couldn't afford it. Now a days with birth control, or maybe they don't believe in birth control. Now if those questions were answered, and it turned out that it is what it is, I would be all over supporting them, but just don't tug on my heartstrings with a woo is me story, give me some straight up answers and I think the money would roll in from a lot of people.

    • More Info Required
      June 20, 2011 - 15:24

      To Sitting on the Fence - I agree. More background is needed before I would consider a donation.

  • Curious Georgia
    June 19, 2011 - 16:10

    I am going to make a donation tomorrow, but I am curious. It speaks of a 'blended family' which would indicate that there are 2 parents somewhere that weren't affected by the fire. Does anyone know where the other 'mom' and 'dad' are?

  • stop complaining ...you should cook
    June 18, 2011 - 22:20

    its easier to buy & cook food from the groceries for 11 people then split that food up and cook it at different houses ...simple ...stop complaining obviuosly doesnt cook , or think sanily .....

    • Spillars Cove Decendent
      June 20, 2011 - 08:19

      Seasonal employment, like most Newfoundlanders, don't carry the greatest income and when you have a sick child, I know where my extra money would be going, I wouldn't be thinking about home insurance. Why are we so quick to judge people? It is one of our business why these poor people didn't have home insurance. Unfortunately they didn't, and I am sure they didn't wish for their home to burn so they could get a new house built for free. Some people are so miserable and should keep their mouths shut. Your day will come....

  • Joseph McGrath
    June 18, 2011 - 20:40

    Maybe it is time to remember“I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,” Matthew 25:35-36. If you can donate then consider doing so and if you cannot at least keep quiet and let others try to help.Seems like a small thing to do???

  • Trump or Monkey
    June 18, 2011 - 20:06

    To Mary. The things that you have stated are still no excuse not to have home insurance. It has nothing to do with the oil boom.Then to top it all off.They are very specific in what they want in their new FREE house because it is a large family. All I can say is seriously??

  • sean o'neill
    June 18, 2011 - 19:43

    I know what these poor folks are going through.Here in the US we've had a lot of devastation over the last 4 months with fires,floods and tornados in the mid-west,Arizona etc.A lot of the people who lost everything are living in hovels and trying to get by from day to day as FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Ass.)drag their heels making sure that nobody is cheating the government.Of course,most of these folks are in heavily Republican districts and we have the Democraps in charge of everythiing.So,they like to make life miserable for these people.My point is that anyone who begrudges the Cole and Fleming families the bare essentials of life,just like FEMA is doing right here,need to crawl back under the rock they slithered forth from.

  • stormyweather
    June 18, 2011 - 18:50

    I knowit must be difficult dealing with such mess like this, i agree with some of the people who said, why no insurance, ,,,, that was my question also, this day and age, everyone has insurance, or at least i thought so, but you know, i guess there are still people who can't affort it, and i guess this family simply could not affort it or else they would have had insurance, really with 9 kids ,,,, if you could affort house insurance would you not have it, ,,, of course you would, but i guess they could not, ,,,,,, and the sad thing is they never thought this would happen, but bad things do happen to good people, for sure,

  • john
    June 18, 2011 - 16:32

    this family do need help simple

    • Townie in Calif
      June 18, 2011 - 17:45

      OMG, I can't believe the negativity of some people. With that many children how could they afford home insurance, just keeping food on the table is a chore I'm sure with the father only working part time. The NL that I grew up in was caring and compassionate, this really saddens me. I expect it here in Calif but surely not in my home province. I for one will transfer funds from my bank to Scotia for this family.

  • Mike
    June 18, 2011 - 13:58

    My in-laws are from that community, and my daughter spends a lot of time with one of their kids. This family needs support, not criticism.

  • Stop Complaining
    June 18, 2011 - 11:44

    Maybe they should have had some insurance.I was just stating a fact that the actual food bill would be the same.No need to attack.

  • Judy Hanlon
    June 18, 2011 - 10:19

    A Response to Stop Complaining, Get some compassion, and YES it is harder to shop when you have to buy separately for different households, It becomes more expensive! Get a life, no wait, get a heart!

  • Ron Kirby
    June 18, 2011 - 10:17

    Stop Complaining - you got a heart of coal

  • some people have nothing better to do
    June 18, 2011 - 10:13

    STOP COMPLAINING: Shut your damn mouth until you think about what's coming out of it....while they still have the same amount of people to feed they're in 3 different locations therefore buying something and taking it to one house doesn't help the people at the other two houses....maybe you should just keep your mouth shut about things you know nothing about. This family has been through a lot and it IS hard to be separated from your children at any time ESPECIALLY when you're going through something traumatic like losing your home. My God...why can't people just be supportive of other people without having to be assholes. Shame on you.

    • Cher
      June 18, 2011 - 15:15

      Well said SOME PEOPLE HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO

  • Susie
    June 18, 2011 - 10:01

    This message is for "Stop Complaining", I am betting that you are either single or don't have any children. Because if you did you wouldn't be passing judgement on someone you don't know. A friend of mine just lost her home to a house fire. Everything gone, including 2 vehicles. They were lucky I guess because they had insurance and they went through hell on earth to try and find someplace to live and keep their family together. I don't know how you sleep at night with no compassion in your soul or heart .. . I pray that something so devasting never happens to you or your loved ones.

    • mary
      June 18, 2011 - 13:03

      Susie, being single or not having children has nothing to do with passing judgement on others. I know many people in relationships and many people with children who are quite judgemental. So, don't judge people based on their relationship status and/or the number of children they have/don't have.

  • Bonavista
    June 18, 2011 - 09:56

    Come on Folks, why should they get a new home for free????? we got to carry insurance on our home so should they. If we all cancel our insurance and hope for a new home if anything happens then lets do it!!!! i'm sure the insurance rep that lives across the road agree with this... so give it a break and build your own home or let the government deal with it. enought about it

    • Richard
      June 18, 2011 - 22:57

      Bonavista why build them a house ? Because it is part of our heritage it's part of what makes us Newfoundlanders where knew as great people through and through. If yours or my house was to burn and to say you would not expect nor want help because you could not afford insurance is wrong you full of it. Some have more then others and 50 bucks a month can mean a lot to a family of 11 trying to survive.

  • Stop Complaining
    June 18, 2011 - 09:12

    Cole, who works seasonally at the Plate Cove crab plant, says it’s a challenge having to buy groceries for three homes. This statement does not make sense.Unless a few more children have been added along the way, she is still buying groceries for the same amount of people.The people are just in different locations.STOP COMPLAINING

    • Harsh
      June 18, 2011 - 10:39

      What is wrong with you? This family just survived a tragedy and lost their home and the children cannot live under the same roof. They are young and confused. How about you stop complaining and have a heart.

  • Trump or monkey
    June 18, 2011 - 09:07

    I can not believe that a family would have this many children living in one house and not have home insurance.There is no excuse for not having insurance and I dont care what anyone has to say about it.It is not that expensive and is a necessity.Therefore people who choose not to have insurance and something happens to their home have no right to complain and beg for public sympathy and handouts!!

    • mary
      June 18, 2011 - 13:09

      For you home insurance may not be that expensive, for another it may mean taking food off the table or not having a needed means of transportation. Maybe because of their son's kidney condition this family was more concerned with having car insurance and gas money for medical emergencies. I don't know their particular situation, but, I do do know that not everyone has benefited from the so called oil boom.

  • Ron Kirby
    June 18, 2011 - 08:48

    This is sad and sweet ......come on folks, if ya can, support our own and drop 50 bucks into that Scotiabank account, I will for sure...Fred Cuff in trust for Kenneth Cole family.