Stepping up in a time of need
Although the flames have died and the smoke has cleared, two Prineville families are still suffering from the tragedy of losing their homes in an early-morning fire last month.
Maria Whitrock, a friend of one of the fire victims, is helping spread the word of two GoFundMe online fundraising accounts and a bank account to benefit the victims.
"Two families lost their homes," Whitrock said. "Both families are living in temporary housing and are struggling to regroup after losing everything."
Lennie Warren says the fire investigator didn't confirm exactly how the Jan. 7 fire started, but it originated in a lean-to shed that was behind her older singlewide trailer home, located near the corner of Southeast Combs Flat Road and Melrose Drive. The fire destroyed Warren's home and spread to the neighboring home, completely destroying it as well.
Warren, who has lived in Prineville since 1982, and her late husband had purchased the trailer and property in 1998.
For more than 25 years, she has had her own housecleaning business, but in late November was forced to stop working because of a debilitating back and neck injury.
"My back just totally gave out on me," Warren said.
She was in the process of seeking medical help when she lost her home and everything in it.
Since the fire, Warren has been staying at her niece's home in Bend, which is closer to her doctors. She's facing surgery in the near future, and once she recovers from that, she will decide what to do about her home and whether or not she will be able to return to work.
She did have homeowners insurance.
"I have been a real strong believer, and I'm glad I did have insurance," Warren said. "It wasn't a whole lot, but it's definitely better than not."
Warren's friend Mary Ann Bernard set up the "Show Lennie some love 'Fire & Home loss recovery'" GoFundMe online fundraising account. There is also an account at Mid Oregon Credit Union called Warren Fire Fund #99571 where people may make financial donations.
"She is one of the hardest working people I know and has a heart as big as can be," Bernard wrote on the GoFundMe site. "She would never ask anyone for anything but would give you her last dime."
A GoFundMe account has also been created to benefit the Morgenstern family, Warren's neighbors who also lost everything in the fire.
"Our home burned down, with everything in it. It's was a complete loss," Christy Morgenstern said.
She lived in the home with her husband, Eric, and youngest son, 18-year-old Blake.
They were renting the home and did not have renters insurance.
Eric works as a cook at Barney Prine's Steakhouse and Saloon, and Christy is a waitress there.
Their boss is letting them live in an apartment above his stables for a couple of months until they can decide what to do next.
"We're struggling because we have pets," Christy said. "We have huskies, and a lot of people don't want to rent to people with our kind of dogs. So, we're struggling with that. We're not sure exactly what we're going to do."
In addition to two huskies, they also have two small dogs. Their kitten did not survive the fire.
They are considering purchasing a motorhome until they can find another home.
The Morgensterns, who have lived in Prineville for about 10 years, are thankful for their coworkers and people in the community who have given them clothing and household items. At this point, they are unable to accept any more household donations because they do not have a place to store it.
"I really appreciate everybody that has helped us because we lost everything in the fire," Christy said.
Help for house fire victims
Visit the GoFundMe online fundraising accounts to donate.
Eric, Christy and Blake Morgenstern: www.gofundme.com/morgenstern-family or gf.me/u/qrjty5
Lennie Warren: www.gofundme.com/show-the-love-fire-and-home-loss-recovery or gf.me/u/qrk265
Mid Oregon Credit Union: Warren Fire Fund #99571