Community steps up for Rhodes family
Union — A fundraiser to help a local wife and mother who had lost everything, including her husband and son, in a fatal fire Jan. 23 was an amazing success, according to organizers and attendees.
"It was really a testament to our community," Staci Bowman said of the event she helped organize Feb. 4.
"The way the community came together in a week and a half's time to raise money for the Rhodes family warms the heart," she added.
Members of the community came out in droves to support their neighbors and an estimated $20,000 was collected.
Steven and Isaac Rhodes succumbed to the smoke and fire, but Elizabeth Rhodes managed to get out. She was treated for burns and smoke inhalation at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Bowman said she had people contacting her from the time the committee started planning the benefit dinner right up until the dinner itself to donate food, auction items and time.
"Once people started to come into the gym on Saturday night, it seemed like they just kept coming," Bowman said, adding some would walk in, make a donation and leave because the line was so long.
She said there was so much food donated, that even with the number of people they fed, they did not run out, and commended the volunteers who cooked the pigs starting at 5:30 a.m. and picking the last of the meat in the dark after 6 p.m.
"The love, support and generosity of the community was truly evident," Bowman said.
The Benefit Pig Roast and silent auction were held at Thompson Community Center in Union.
Daughter and sister of the victims Rachel Rhodes Batlis also set up a crowdfunding account to help defray expenses associated with the fire. To date, $24,828 has been raised by 464 supporters.
Anyone wishing to make a donation can do so by visiting youcaring.com/elizabethrhodes-742967
The State Fire Marshal's Office could not determine a cause for the blaze because of the extent of damage.
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.