A Winnipeg woman is feeling overwhelmed by the love shown to her by those in her community this holiday season after her home was destroyed by a fire last month.
Maria Hrabarchuk was home crocheting a Christmas stocking when she heard a loud bang come from her basement.
Concerned because their furnace had been acting up over the past few days, Hrabarchuk went downstairs to investigate but didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
"A little while later, I heard the furnace try to kick in but it just couldn't do it. I thought that was kind of odd," Hrabarchuk remembers.
Not too long later, she heard more sounds coming from her vents. She went downstairs and saw smoke coming from her furnace. By the time she brought her son downstairs a few seconds later, flames were shooting from the heating unit.
The mother of four ran upstairs with her son to grab her phone and keys, as well as some of their pets. They were able to get out of the home with one of their cats before their house completely went up in flames.
Thankfully, the family's two cats, rabbit, and lizards were saved from the fire.
"The basement was completely destroyed. The first floor is all water and smoke damage," Hrabarchuk explains. "I think the fire came up through the vents so the vents on the first floor ... are burned and charred."
Two bedrooms, belonging to Hrabarchuk and one of her sons, were also destroyed.
"It's pretty stressful," says Hrabarchuk, who had to take time off of work after the fire. Hrabarchk and two of her sons are currently staying with her mother.
"Getting back to work gets your mind off of it but there's a lot of questions about how long it's going to take to get back into the house and now that it's cold outside, it's a little more worrisome leaving the house alone all the time."
Hrabarchuk's two teenage sons had to take some time off school as well after the fire because they were left with no clothes to wear.
Community comes together
But it didn't take long for Hrabarchuk's neighbours and others who heard about the fire to respond with love to the family.
On the night of the fire, Kali Martin, Hrabarchuk's neighbour, asked if she could start a GoFundMe page on the family's behalf.
Hrabarchuk says she agreed, thinking even a few hundred dollars would help.
"I was panicking, I told Kali I didn't have insurance, how am I ever going to fix this?" Hrabarchuk says.
To date, the page has raised more than $26,000.
"I just knew it was something I could do right that second to get the ball rolling and that I had a decent media following on Twitter from my blogging days," Martin says.
"(It) was literally the least I could do (besides temporarily taking in her rabbit and lizards!)."
Another Winnipegger by the name of Gord heard about Hrabarchuk's plight and called her to offer his help in navigating her renovations and other considerations at this time.
Hrabarchuk was also concerned that code red restrictions would mean she couldn't provide for her kid's basic needs.
"I couldn't even buy my son a pair of sweatpants at Walmart, she says.
Two of her sons also have type one diabetes.
Donations of clothing and other items also began to pour in, however, when people online and at her son's school heard of their needs. Hrabarchuk says they have received so many donations they don't need any more items at this time.
"People are just amazing," Hrabarchuk says. "They're so generous."
Her son's school office has also been collecting donations on behalf of the family.
Hrabarchuk says the donations they receive will be going towards as many restorations as possible for the family's home and perhaps a few appliances.
A local electrician recently donated his time to help get some power back in the home for work to begin.
"It's amazing, the generosity is overwhelming," Hrabarchuk says. "Especially at this time of year and with COVID going on, everybody has their own issues that they're dealing with. For people to take time out and even just read the story on the internet and take the time to send me five and 10 dollars ... is just mind-blowing.
"I hope the message in all of this is that we don’t need material things ... Christmas doesn’t need a Christmas tree. God doesn't give you what you can't handle."