No place like home: Ramirez family ready to move into rebuilt home after fire
By Melanie Tucker | (email@example.com)
Two months after a fire left Jose Ramirez and his family without a home, they are moving back into the rebuilt residence in Alcoa thankful to God, family, friends and complete strangers who stepped in to lend a hand.
The fire that left the home on Oakland Street uninhabitable occurred on May 21 when a mattress caught fire next to a heating unit. Jose and his children were home at the time, but Jose’s wife Silvia was away in El Salvador, where they are from. The family escaped with the clothes on their backs. Furniture, clothing — everything was either destroyed or damaged.
A call goes out
An article detailing the tragedy appeared in The Daily Times on June 9. Two friends of Jose’s, Chuck Davis and Jim Goode, immediately came alongside the family to help. They are members of Alcoa First Baptist Church. The congregation there provided financial support as did New Providence Presbyterian. Other groups followed suit, either providing building materials, money or labor. Davis said it was great to see a community pull together and help the Ramirezes in their time of need. He said the rebuilt home passed all inspections this week and it’s now move-in ready. It was something else on May 22 and the days immediately following.
“We had people donate sheet rock and vinyl siding,” Davis said. “First Baptist of Alcoa took care of replacing the windows. A local plumber called and donated his services. Then an insulation company wanted to help and didn’t charge any labor for installation.”
There were even groups from out-of-state who got involved. Camp Tipton officials here in Blount County heard about the need and arranged for reinforcements. Two groups traveling here from Wisconsin and Iowa were able to help with some electrical work and hanging sheetrock. Lowe’s was also a great help, Davis said. The home improvement store was able to sell them supplies at reduced cost.
“I had estimated it was going to take about $30,000 to get the house back in shape,” Davis said. It ended up being done with less than $10,000 in cash and a whole lot of volunteers.
It was a tall order, Davis explained. Workers had to take the structure down to the bare 2-by-4s. “You could see through the house from one side to the other,” he said.
Jose, 43, and his family were at the new home on Wednesday, showing their appreciation and looking over the results.
“It feels good,” Jose said. God made this possible.”
Jose is the pastor of a Hispanic church in Maryville and used to hold services in the family life center at Alcoa First Baptist, which is where he met Goode and Davis. The Hispanic church is now located in Maryville.
The look of gratitude was evident on his face and on that of Silvia’s.
“I want to thank God first and then the people who helped us rebuild,” she said. “We are so grateful.”
Finding a place
This family immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1987 and lived for a time in Washington, D.C., before choosing Alcoa. They had been living in this residence for seven years.
The church Jose pastors is called Iglesia Profetica Ciudad de Sion. It’s located on East Broadway. He started it nine years ago after discovering there were no Hispanic churches in the community. There are several now.
Jose also operates a car repair shop in the Eagleton Village area.
The couple and four of their children will now be settling back in. The Ramirezes also have a set of twins who are in college. They have grandchildren, too.
Too many to name
Jose mentioned people like Roger Whitehead of New Providence, who helped give this tragic story a happy ending. Jeff and Mary Paske provided support as well. Andrew Kear at U Save Auto Rental jumped in to help with emergency items like clothing. The Paskes and Kear have children who play soccer with one of the Ramirez children. Alcoa City Schools, where the Ramirez children attend, also got involved. And Jose knows there are folks who did things he wasn’t even aware of.
“We had friends and total strangers who came to help,” he said. “People I never met.”
Through the process, new electrical system and new plumbing were installed, along with new kitchen cabinets. The family is still in need of some household items like mattresses, but they are definitely getting back on track.
“People showed up and materials showed up,” Jose said. “I didn’t believe this could all happen in just two months. We had nothing. No money. Nothing but faith. God made this possible.”