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Help pours in after fire loss

The Palm Harbor family had no insurance on the contents of a condo destroyed by fire.

By JONATHAN ABEL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 5, 2008


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PALM HARBOR - Two days after a fire spread from a neighbor's condominium to his, destroying his home and displacing his family, Jim Chaboudy couldn't go five minutes without his cell phone ringing.

Neighbors called Friday to offer food and shelter. Co-workers from the post office and his wife's school, Lake St. George Elementary, called, too.

Then there's the help from friends, fellow church members and outright strangers.

"This is just so overwhelming," Chaboudy said. "That's what keeps us strong."

Chaboudy, his wife, Linda, and their two school-aged daughters were among eight people burned out of their homes Wednesday night when a massive fire tore through a cluster of buildings in the Townhomes of Westlake Village.

The two-alarm blaze at 480 Lakeview Drive, just north of Nebraska Avenue and west of Belcher Road, did more than $1-million in damage, destroying four of six units and damaging a fifth, according to Palm Harbor Fire Rescue.

No one was hurt.

On Friday, authorities - including Pinellas County sheriff's arson detectives - continued to investigate the cause of the blaze, but did not release any information about its origin.

The Chaboudy family did not have insurance for the contents of the home. Chaboudy said the family - whose youngest daughter Heather, 11, had a heart transplant as an infant - had been going through financial problems recently and decided to cut its expenses by not purchasing the insurance.

Chaboudy, 48, was not sure what, if anything, was left inside his home because he had not been able to go inside due to the ongoing investigation. Chaboudy feared his family lost three-quarters of their possessions, he hoped to salvage some appliances and large pieces of furniture.

The family's church, Clearwater Community Church, volunteered to help the family move any remaining possessions into temporary storage.

Senior Pastor Eric Bargerhuff said he would make an appeal for donations before his sermon Sunday and said anyone interested in helping could contact the church.

Others including the nonprofit Clothes to Kids, which provides clothing for children in need, have pledged to help the family.

The long-term plan is unclear, Chaboudy said, but in the short-term the family is committed to getting back to normal.

Chaboudy and his wife plan to go back to work on Monday. Their daughters, Amber, 18, and Heather will return to school.

"We're optimistic," Chaboudy said. "God's been good to us, and he's sent a lot of angels to look after us."

Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.

HOW TO HELP

Chaboudy family

Contact Clearwater Community Church administrator Barry Griffin at (727) 799-4444.

[Last modified January 4, 2008, 21:24:17]


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