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Neighbors, strangers collecting donations for Chesapeake family after devastating house fire

Everything -- from toothbrushes to two cars -- is gone. But the community isn’t sitting by.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Neighbors and total strangers are trying to help a Chesapeake family pick up the pieces after a fire destroyed their home.

They’ve already seen an outpouring of love, with the community stepping up in a big way.

Ashley Hilliard’s foyer is filling fast with boxes of clothes, shoes, and more.

“The community has been bringing things that are brand new, tags still on them,” she said.

It’s all for her neighbors, a family of 11, who lost their home Tuesday night in Chesapeake.

“I looked out the window and I saw the back of the house with flames on it,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard rushed two streets over to the fire, trying to console people she just met.  

“It was heartbreaking,” Hilliard said. “I cried with them and I didn’t even know them, it was just hard to watch.”

The flames tore the home apart. One of the owners, Nicole Cuffee, said she jumped from the second-story window to get away. She said she sprained her ankle, but fortunately, that was the only injury.

“It’s devastating, but I mean, all the humans are alive,” Cuffee said. “We are breathing, we are still here.”

Cuffee said they bought the house brand new in 2017. Recently her daughter and grandchildren moved in. She thinks the fire started in the backyard.

“My granddaughter, I guess had noticed it and she came in and told us the patio was on fire,” Cuffee said.

Everything from toothbrushes to two of their cars is all gone.  But the community isn’t sitting by. Hilliard has already taken the family a car full of items.

“Very overwhelming, very inspiring,” Cuffee said. “I am thanking God every day. People have been great.”

They are staying in a hotel, so neighbors also created a meal donation page. Hilliard said they are hoping to get more storage donations, like bins and suitcases. She also wants to get more items geared towards the kids, who are 4, 6, 8, and 12 years old.

Even during COVID, Hilliard said the sense of community is strong in Chesapeake.

“It just really shows you that even with social distancing, everyone still cares about everybody,” Hilliard said. “It’s definitely very humbling and very comforting to see it.”  

Check out the Meal Train page here and GoFundMe here. If you'd like to drop off donations, email Ashley Hilliard at Swmorano@gmail.com.