A family of six from southwest Nova Scotia who lost everything in a house fire is now watching their new home be built from the ground up, thanks to the kindness of their community.
A local carpenter started the project for free last fall and others have joined in to help him tackle the job in the community of Brighton, near Digby. Electricians and plumbers have donated their time, local companies have donated supplies, and neighbours stop by daily to lend a hand.
The Morehouse family have been dreaming of going home since the electrical fire engulfed their mobile home in October. They hope to move into their new home by late spring.
"Our home is going to be the home that the community has built," said Nancy Morehouse. "From the money for it to the actual labour ... I just can't believe it."
Morehouse said the October fire started in an electrical junction box that joined an addition to the older part of the home. The family was physically unscathed, but none of their possessions were saved and the home was destroyed.
"The loss has been horrible," Morehouse said. "My Christmas decorations from my grandmother, baby quilts, little things that you get at the hospital when they come home, baby books, all my memories of my sister."
Morehouse's husband, John, had grown up in the home and it's where they raised their own children. It was inherited and was no longer covered by insurance after they built an addition. When it was destroyed, they had few options.
"We didn't know what we were going to do," Morehouse said. "We were a family of six displaced, not knowing where we were going to go or what was going to happen."
But, in the days that followed the fire, the community began to rally around the family. A local church opened its basement as a hub for donations, restaurants contributed gift cards, and people offered up their homes as a place to stay.
"The amount of people that donated stuff is very overwhelming and heartwarming, just everything from toiletries to blankets to clothes," Morehouse said.
"We live in a small community and a small province. Everybody knows everybody and everybody wants to help."
After searching for weeks for a new home to rent in the area, Morehouse and her husband found nothing. As they became more and more desperate, they were told to get in touch with a local man named Earle Manzer.
John Morehouse met Manzer at a Tim Hortons.
"[Manzer] proceeded to tell John, 'I'm going to build your house for you, the Lord and I are going to build your house for you for free,'" Nancy Morehouse said.
Manzer, a retired teacher and carpenter, had never taken on such a large volunteer job, but he was motivated by his faith to help the family.
"I've been blessed my whole life," Manzer said. "And I'm so blessed to be given the opportunity to share what little bit of knowledge and expertise I have to a family in need."
He said he's been working on the home consistently, and has had help from John Morehouse and many others.
"Maybe they happen to be driving by, maybe they call John to see what's going on. Sometimes we have two or three volunteers, some days we've had seven or eight," he said.
"It's been mind blowing, really, to see the number of volunteers that have showed up. Time and time again, people have donated so much time and effort."
Morehouse said her family has only had to pay for some building supplies. She feels joy when she sees the home, because she knows it was built by friends and neighbours.
"When you drive in the driveway you can actually picture it. The walls are there, the wooden roof is there, it's just amazing," she said.
"You see this on TV on a home makeover show or something like that. This doesn't happen in rural Nova Scotia, but apparently it does.… If it wasn't for everybody and their generosity, I have no idea where we would be."
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