Families overwhelmed by community support

Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico Alisha and Steve Robertson sit on the wall of what used to be their master bedroom in front of the mobile home they plan to live in while rebuilding their house. Sunday’s fire destroyed their home, but they said they have received a lot of help and love from the community.

Argen Duncan

Two families whose houses burned in the 17,000-acre grassfire Sunday say they’re overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of kindness from the community.

James and Roxie Lofton lost their home of 30 years, and their land, which had been certified wildlife habitat, was damaged.

Steve and Alisha Robertson and their 14-year-old daughter, Kasserine, lost the home they’d been building and adding on to for several years. Steve Robertson said it would have been finished and eligible for insurance in June.

“When we first lost our home, we felt so helpless and hopeless, we were ready to go and just leave,” Robertson said.

However, in the last few days, he said, so many people have expressed love. Four different people — Joe Chandler, Johnny Lieb, Adam Terry and Thom Moore — went looking for the family the day their house burned. Robertson said Lieb provided a mobile home for them to live in and Chandler made arrangements to have the utilities hooked up.

Individuals have donated gift cards, money and clothes, and paid for the Robertson’s purchases in restaurants and clothing stores. Robertson said two groups have committed to help clean up the debris.

SOS Outlet and the Robertson’s church, Third and Kilgore Church of Christ, are taking collections, and James Polk Stone Community Bank has set up a fund, Robertson said.

“The community beats the heck out of (the Federal Emergency Management Agency),” he said. “So FEMA needs to come here and get advice from the community.”

Third and Kilgore Church of Christ secretary Wynette McKillip said people began bringing donations for the Robertsons starting Monday, and the church is holding them until the family moves into the mobile home.

“They’re part of our family, and we love them to death,” she said of the reasons for helping.

The Robertsons are living in a hotel in Clovis, but expect to move into the mobile home at the site of their old house next week. Robertson said the UPS man told him everyone had been watching the progress of that house and he needed to rebuild.

“And that inspired me the most to just go ahead, and even though it’ll probably take 10 or 15 years now, we’re going to go ahead and rebuild,” he said.

The Loftons saved their camper van and are living in it while they decide what to do. James Lofton said many people — from the Red Cross and Salvation Army to churches to strangers — had tracked them down and offered help.

“There’s some really, really good people here in this community,” he said. “It’s absolutely overpowering and humbling.”

Because the couple has a place to stay, and the camper doesn’t have space for extra food and belongings, they’ve declined help.

“We’re trying not to seem ungrateful, but we’re just looking for closure for ourselves right now,” James Lofton said.

Roxie Lofton said they appreciate the offers.

James Lofton said they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to rebuild because of his wife’s health issues, and if they do, they’ll have to wait until the ashes settle.