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Delivering Hope

Lauer Family
I was used to seeing the Red Cross on the news at major disasters. I didn't know they also helped individuals and families who had just lost their home.

It Only Took 60 Seconds

In the middle of a cold October night, Josh Lauer woke up suddenly and saw fire outside his window. As his wife ran to wake their son Jona, Josh ran down the hall, hoping to put out the fire. It was too late: the house and deck were already engulfed in flames. Josh quickly led his wife and child outside through their only remaining escape route. Between waking up and reaching their driveway, only 60 seconds had passed, but the Lauer Family’s lives had changed forever.

“Josh managed to save some family pictures,” Stephanie said, smiling gratefully at her husband. “But everything else is gone.” Josh, who had run back into the house to try to save their puppy, had been badly burned across his back and had to be rushed to the hospital with second degree burns.

Red Cross Volunteers Arrive

That’s when Montana Red Cross stepped in. Within an hour of being alerted by local police, Red Cross volunteers Jerry Long and Denice Rogers arrived at the hospital to help. “I was so surprised when they told me that the Red Cross wanted to speak with us,” said Stephanie. “I was used to seeing the Red Cross on the news at major disasters. I didn’t know they helped individuals and families who had just lost their home.”

After assessing the family’s immediate needs, Jerry and Denice provided Stephanie with a credit card to buy clothes, gas and groceries, gave her care packages with essentials like toiletries and face towels, and reserved rooms at a nearby hotel (the family declined to use the rooms when they learned their insurance would pay for lodging).

Local Community Helps

The local community, too, tried to help. When Walmart store manager Bill Smith heard that 4 year old Jona Lauer had lost his bicycle in the fire, he quickly provided the boy with a brand new red bike and a shiny blue helmet. Jona was thrilled.

While the Lauers are moving forward, the road to recovery will be long. Josh, a fly-fisherman and outfitter, lost his equipment in the fire and isn’t sure that their insurance will cover the loss. Stephanie, an environmental consultant who lost her home office and all its contents in the fire, has set up a temporary office in a friend’s basement.

The family has started the arduous process of replacing the hundreds of things they lost in the fire. And while they plan to rebuild and are looking forward to moving in to a temporary rental down the street, they aren’t quite sure they will be fully settled before the holidays.

Grateful For Every Day

Yet Josh and Stephanie are feeling grateful--for their lives, their health, and their supportive friends and family. “We really are so lucky. So many good things came out of this,” explained Stephanie as she started listing some of the happier outcomes of the disaster. “After seeing what happened to us, so many people we know have started fireproofing their homes, installing smoke detectors, and figuring out escape routes from every part of their house. She added somewhat ruefully: “I guess you could say that we took one for the team.”

Josh nodded in agreement as he watched his son bike up and down the driveway. “This may sound cheesy, but I have learned to be grateful for every day”. Stephanie concurred and added with determination: “We will be fine, we will be just fine.”