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Craft vendors pull together to help city family after fire

December 17, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

WASHINGTON COUNTY - With just eight days until Christmas, Melody Row has no home, a broken foot and a wildly uncertain future, all because of a fire that destroyed her family's Garlinger Avenue rental house early Tuesday.

Yet on Saturday morning, Row was wiping away tears of joy and feeling quite humble in the face of friends and strangers who hastily organized an arts and crafts fair Saturday to benefit her family.

"I'm trying to keep everyone calm," Row said. "My husband, James, is house-hunting as well as seeing if anything is salvageable."

The house at 30 Garlinger Ave. that burned only had three bedrooms, which was small for the large family, Melody Row said. Finding something adequate might take some time.

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The Rows and six children, ranging in age from 6 months to 13 years, have been staying at the Super 8 Motel in Hagerstown since the Tuesday morning fire.

The Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross paid for the first three nights, and the Row family's doctors - Partners in Pediatrics - financed two more nights.

"We understand anonymous donors have given money for more nights for us, too," Row said Saturday.

Della Weichert, the organizer of Saturday's craft fair, said the Row family will receive $10 from each craft vendor who set up at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center - minus the fee for the multipurpose building.

"I know Melody through craft fairs," Weichert said. "When this happened, I said there is something we can do to help this family."

With just a few days to pull everything together, Weichert was happy to see at least 10 vendors set up by 9:30 a.m. for the all-day fair.

"My church had a craft fair last weekend, and both Melody and Della were there," said Mary Ruffin, who showed up Saturday to provide food for vendors and shoppers alike. She said she will donate a portion of her profits to Melody.

An antique desk and a doll were donated, with all proceeds going to the Row family, Weichert said.

The fire started in the living room, where wooden crafts too close to a baseboard heater ignited, Assistant City Fire Marshal Rich Miller said. Damage to the structure was estimated at more than $30,000.

On Saturday morning, Melody Row nursed her foot, which was broken when she escaped the fire. Overwhelmed by the response to the family's ordeal, she watched over her children and cried quietly as people came over to hug and encourage her.

One of the huggers, Diana Hoover, shows woodcrafts with her husband. She said she met Melody just two weeks earlier. When the Hoovers heard of the fire, they called right away to see how they could help.

"I never knew how tightknit crafters are," Melody Row said.

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