A family of eight who lost nearly all their world possessions in a Doney Park home fire last month is finding new reasons to be thankful.
Ron and Lisa Jones had just moved from Mesa to Doney Park with their six daughters when a burning piece of material from their grill landed in a pile of empty moving boxes on the other side of their porch on Oct. 26.
They all escaped unharmed, but with only the clothes they were wearing.
Beds, furniture, clothing, and even their cars, were destroyed within minutes when the house on the 8600 block of Arroyo Trail went up in flames. Except for their vehicles, they had no insurance — they said they could not obtain a renters’ policy for Doney Park.
A month later, they have a new rental home, new vehicles and hundreds of items donated by the Flagstaff community.
“We’re pretty blessed,” Lisa said.
FREE CLOTHING AND A VEHICLE
Within days of losing their home, the Jones family had received boxes upon boxes of clothing donated by their old church group in Mesa and members of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The girls’ teachers at Coconino High School, Sinagua Middle School and Cromer Elementary also pitched in, getting them school supplies. More donations came pouring in as the rest of the city learned about the Joneses’ plight.
“I don’t think we could have been in a better community,” Lisa said. “This community is just phenomenal. Anybody and everybody that’s heard has tried to do something. We’re just very, very grateful for the community and all of the people that have helped out.”
Their biggest surprise came about a week after the big fire. All week, the Findlay Auto Group’s Facebook page had been flooded with comments from concerned citizens urging the company to help the Jones family. Robby Findlay finally called Ron and Lisa, who had been borrowing neighbors’ cars to get around, and invited them to come down to the dealership.
“When we went down to talk to Findlay, we didn’t know what to expect. They were just like, ‘Hey, we just want you to come down and talk to you,’” Lisa said. “When (Findlay) was talking to us, he told us, ‘Our Facebook is blowing up ... with people being like, “You guys are big into our community; you need to help this family.”’ He said, ‘I just couldn’t ignore it.’”
Findlay Auto Group donated a Jeep Grand Cherokee to Ron so he could drive to work at Flagstaff Medical Center every day. They also decided to lend the family a Toyota Sienna from the rental fleet so Lisa could drive the kids around. Lisa will be able to keep the Sienna until the insurance money from her destroyed car comes through. The dealership has promised to help the family get a great deal on a new vehicle as soon as that happens.
Lisa still get chills thinking about that day.
“I was sitting at the table out in the open and I was ... crying,” Lisa said. “I was holding the keys realizing that this was the first time in over a week that I had my own set of keys.”
A SPACE OF THEIR OWN
Kenya Summerville, who was staying in her parents’ Doney Park home when the Jones family’s home burned down, took in all eight on the afternoon of the fire, even through she barely knew them. Ron and Lisa were grateful for Summerville’s generosity, but they knew they needed to find their own space.
Their prayers were answered a little over a week ago, when a woman Ron knew from work offered to let them rent the house she owned in Doney Park. Lisa said her daughters were thrilled to finally have a home.
“We were able to find a house in the same neighborhood basically,” Lisa said. “They’re glad to be in the same schools and glad to have their own rooms again.”
The Jones family received a few donated mattresses, and Mattress Center gave them a deal on the rest. One man also sold the family some handmade bunk beds for the girls at a reduced price.
They also received enough furniture through an MRI technician who works with Ron at Flagstaff Medical Center’s Radiology department to fill their new home. The woman’s neighbors were looking to downsize. When the MRI tech told the neighbors about the Joneses, they leapt at the chance to donate their old furniture.
“They donated to us (two bookshelves), the TV, the stereo system,” Lisa said. “Then, (the MRI technician) gave us that eight-seater table. I have a table that fits my whole family, which is fantastic. I was so excited that she brought that over.”
More than a month after the fire, people are still dropping by with boxes of clothes, sheets, dishes, blankets, towels and anything else they can think of to help out.
“People keep bringing more and more stuff,” Lisa said. “My counters are full.”
The garage and several rooms in the Jones’ new house are filled with piles and boxes of donated items. The donations have come from local businesses, church groups, schools, people at FMC and even individuals who had never met the Jones family before the fire. The generosity has been so great that Lisa said she feels a little overwhelmed.
“You have to go through everything, because I don’t know what anything is, but we’re doing pretty good,” Lisa said. “I can’t complain. People are still asking if we need stuff. It’s been nice.”
DONATING THEIR ABUNDANCE
Even the donations the family cannot use are not being wasted. All the extra furniture, clothing and other items have gone directly to Flagstaff Unified School District’s Family Resource Center and the Hodgepodge Thrift Store, which benefits Northland Hospice and Palliative Care. Lisa said it was important for her and Ron to make sure everything they could not use ended up benefiting the community that has done so much to help them.
“If it didn’t work, we just donated it and tried to give it to somebody that was either a really worthy cause and still kept the money in the community or the Resource Center that helps other families for free,” Lisa said.
Donating their abundance was one way the Jones family felt they could thank the people of Flagstaff for their overwhelming support.
“We could never repay what people have done for us,” Lisa said. “Thank you is almost not even enough, but that’s kind of all we have right now. We hope that in the future maybe someday we can pay it back, pay it forward or help somebody, even if it’s not monetary.”
There are still things the Joneses does not have — like dressers, full-sized sheets and decorations for the girls’ rooms — but Lisa said the family is doing well even without them.
“We’re kind of to the point where, for the most part, our needs are met,” Lisa said. “We just kind of go, ‘Oh, we don’t have that, we’ll find something else. We’ll work it out.’”
WHAT REALLY MATTERS
For now, Lisa, Ron and their daughters are just looking forward their first holiday season in the snow. More than ever, Lisa said, they are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with family and friends. They got an early holiday surprise when two of the local elementary schools recently held a food drive to stock the Joneses’ cupboards. On Wednesday night, Summit Fire District Station 32, which responded to the house fire, also pitched in by bringing Thanksgiving dinner to their new home.
Lisa said the fire changed a lot of things for her family, but not all those changes were negative. Instead, it gave the Jones family a new perspective.
“I think it’s made us appreciate things a lot more, appreciate what’s more important,” Lisa said. “I think this Christmas is obviously going to be a little bit different. It will be more about what we have instead of what we want. I think our appreciation for things has definitely been changed. Instead of, ‘What do I want, want, want,’ it’s, ‘Look at what everybody’s done for us.’”
One thing is certain: The Jones family will never forget the place the Flagstaff community now holds in their hearts.
“We want to just make sure that everybody knows that we’re extremely grateful,” Lisa said. “Without the community and our church, honestly, I don’t know what we would have done. I don’t think we would have made it.”
Michelle McManimon can be reached at 556-2261 or MMcManimon@azdailysun.com.
Summit Fire District Station 32, 8905 Koch Field Road, is still working with the Red Cross, 963 W. Route 66, to collect donations for the Jones family.
The Summit fire station can be reached at 526-9537 and the Red Cross can be reached at 779-5494.
The Jones family has also set up a PayPal account called LisaJones515@hotmail.com.