The Connor family’s property on Downes Road in Abbotsford was a flurry of activity on Wednesday morning.
Outside, Abbotsford Police Const. Paul Walker was operating an excavator to clear the site of garbage and move around old cars that would later be taken to the scrapyard.
His fellow officers and other volunteers were manually cleaning up the property, moving items into the dumpster in the front yard.
Inside the home, destroyed by a chimney fire on Nov. 11, members of Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service were clearing out the rubble to prepare the home for rebuilding.
In all, more than 20 police officers, firefighters and members of the public gathered at the site for the first day of a massive volunteer effort that will see Ann and Bill Connor in a new home before Christmas.
The couple, both in their 80s, had no insurance when their home was destroyed. Bill has lived on the property since he was two years old.
Everything required to rebuild their home – including building supplies, appliances, furniture, cabinets, sinks and all the labour – has been donated.
Last weekend, the Abbotsford Firefighters Charitable Society and the Abbotsford Police Union announced they would co-ordinate all the offers that were pouring in from the community and beyond.
Sgt. Judy Dizy and her husband, firefighter Craig Bird, agreed to head the efforts, and both were on site on Wednesday.
Bird said that within 72 hours of the two organizations announcing their plans to help the Connors, donations had come in to cover all that was needed.
“Everything has been taken care of. We don’t need anything else. This is truly a community effort,” he said.
Bird said the rebuild will be completed without touching the trust fund that friends set up for the Connors.
Dizy said she has been moved by the generosity.
“It’s very emotional … The fact that the community can always come together and always support each other – what more can you ask for?”
Numerous police officers and firefighters are skilled tradespeople and are volunteering their time off work to assist with things such as electrical work, plumbing and drywalling.
Among them are Const. Walker and Const. Phil Sawatsky. Both were on site Wednesday, after having finished a night shift with the Abbotsford Police Department.
“Nobody wishes this on anybody,” Walker said of the fire and why he wanted to help. “I wouldn’t want my parents to go through this.”
Bill Connor and his son John were also at the scene, and said they were touched and grateful that people would do so much for them.
“I really appreciate it … It’s not easy at my age (to go through such trauma),” Bill said.
The shell of the home and the foundation will remain, and volunteers are expected to start the rebuilding process on Friday. They are intent on completing the project before Christmas.
Dizy said the rebuild will include one crucial component – the chimney insert that was previously missing from the home because the Connors couldn’t afford it, preventing them from getting insurance.
Donation inquiries can be made by calling Dizy at 604-835-1316. Donations to the trust fund can be made at any branch of TD Canada Trust to account number 9035-6371813.