‘Wonderful friends and neighbors’

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Chris and Crystal Ray-Chapman have been married for almost two years. In approximately five months, Crystal will give birth to the couple’s first child. But after they lost their home to an electrical fire nearly two weeks ago, Crystal’s plans to nurture her children in the same home she was raised in, were crushed.

“I was basically raised in that house and I’ve lived in it just about all my life,” she said about the home on Wayne Road in Sweet Water. “When my great-grandmother passed, she willed it to me. So, I’ve owned it since I was 12.”

And even though the Chapman’s may have lost their home, they have gained many new friends as area residents pull together to help the family get back on their feet.

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Since the fire, the Chapman family has received much help and support from the community and the local Red Cross and they wanted this message delivered to all who have contributed, or plan to help, in their time of need:

“We, Chris and Crystal Ray-Chapman and our family, would like to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has expressed their love and kindness in so many ways to us during the recent loss of our home to a fire. Words cannot convey the gratitude we feel for having so many wonderful friends and neighbors. May God bless each of you. Thank you again for you expressions of kindness.”

Although the family needs everything from food to furniture, Crystal is in dire need of things for her unborn child.

“We need stuff, but I really need stuff for the baby,” she said. “We lost all our baby things.”

Crystal wasn’t home at the time the fire started, she can vividly recall the life-threatening situation her husband was forced to face.

“Chris was in the house and our dogs started going crazy. He said they were barking and running around so he went outside to see if anyone was out there,” she said. “After he went outside and looked around, he didn’t see anyone.

So he turned around to go back in the house and that’s when he saw the roof of the house was on fire. He couldn’t smell anything because the ventilation system in our house was carrying everything outside and it wasn’t in a livable part of the house.”

Five fire departments responded to the scene. Although firefighters from Sweet Water, South Marengo, Marengo County, Thomaston and Dixons Mills battled the flames, a steady water stream could not be obtained. Thus, flames eventually “gutted” the home and left the family with close to nothing after hours of extinguishing attempts, Crystal said.

“The fire started about 2:30 that day,” Crystal said, “and we didn’t leave away from there until four or five o’clock.”

Chris, who also copes with a serious diabetes condition, was able to save their two cats, two ferrets, a few items, and their two dogs – after they had saved him.

“We got everybody out,” Crystal said referring to her husband and beloved animals. “But we didn’t get a chance to save much. All my sentimental things are gone. My grandmother was an artist and I lost all her pictures.”

The Chapmans had insurance on their home, but were forced to use it toward modifications for wheelchair access since Crystal suffers from muscular dystrophy.

The family is currently staying in a small camper in Sweet Water, but is looking forward to rebuilding a house on the same land where their former home once stood.

“Once we get the money we want to rebuild,” Crystal said. “But right now we don’t have it.”

For more information on how to help the Chapman family, please contact the Theo Ratliff Center at 289-2200.