LEE, Maine — The Plaisted family is seeing just how generous people can be.
Mounds of clothing, some furniture, food, gift certificates and a place to stay are among the donated items from neighbors, friends, Lee Academy officials and strangers since the family of eight was burned out of the 123-year-old Winn farmhouse they were living in last Thursday.
The fire and constant stream of donations and visitors — and insurance adjusters — left Megan Plaisted, who is pregnant and due to deliver another family member in November, feeling stressed and exhausted, but also deeply grateful.
“Whenever we have been home, people have been stopping in to drop off this or that so that the first few days here, I was constantly going,” Plaisted said Tuesday from her family’s temporary home at the McDonald House dormitory at Lee Academy. “I haven’t really slept much. I sat down on the couch here for the first time at about 1 o’clock this morning.
“But we feel good,” Plaisted added. “The community has certainly shown that it cares.”
The fire began when Plaisted left fried chicken in the oven to chase a horse that had escaped from the family’s barn at 83 Old Military Road at about 2 p.m. Thursday. Though Plaisted thought she had turned off the stove, the chicken caught fire and the blaze eventually destroyed the one-family farmhouse.
A firefighter was treated for heat stress at the scene. No one else was injured. Firefighters said they believed the fire was an accident.
The fire cost the Plaisteds almost all of their belongings, but as of Tuesday, many had been replaced by donations. This has helped the family greatly, said Bob Potts, the academy’s director of advancement.
“The shock of it is just now starting to set in,” Potts said. “There is concern that there’s a lot of pressure being placed on her but overall the family seems to be holding up very well. They have been blessed by the outpouring of support.”
With summer hiatus just starting, Lee officials opted to allow the family to stay on-campus as Richard Plaisted and his boss and friend, Robert Fogg, search for a suitable rental for the family. Two of the family’s six children, Rachael Hadder and Dustin Zimmerman, attend Lee. The oldest, Forrest Zimmerman, graduated with honors two weeks ago, Potts said.
Fogg has established a savings account at Machias Savings Bank of Lincoln for donations and set collection jars at several stores in the Lincoln Lakes region on Tuesday. Donations can be mailed to the Plaisted Family Fire Victims Fund, c/o 29 Main St., Lincoln 04457, he said.
Hannaford Supermarket, Wal-Mart, Marden’s and Steaks ’N Stuff are among the Lincoln stores that have donated gift certificates or items. A bake sale will be held Saturday at Winn Community Hall from 9 a.m. to noon, Fogg said. Anyone interested in donating goods or volunteering may call 736-2033 or 736-4068.
“We are getting a lot of phone calls,” Fogg said. “People are responding.”
Lee Academy is also collecting donations and items for the Plaisteds, Potts said. Clothing sizes and additional information are available by calling Nancy Brown at the school at 738-2252. Checks may be made payable to Lee Academy with “Plaisted Family” in the memo line.
All donations should be dropped off at the Pineo Administration Building, 26 Winn Road in Lee, or mailed to Lee Academy, 26 Winn Road, Lee 04455, he said.