They may have lost everything they owned in a house fire last Friday, but a Stratford family say they truly appreciative the community support they have received since.
Lauren Chard and her husband David have lived in the Oberon St rental for the past three years with three of their children and Lauren says she loved the house from the moment they moved in.
"It had a great layout. I really liked the hallway, it was so big and felt really welcoming."
Lauren says David was at Energy Works last Friday where he works as an industrial blaster and painter when she drove to New Plymouth.
Luckily, says Lauren, the rest of the family came too, with their three teenage children aged 13, 14 and 17 coming along for the drive.
"If one of them had stayed at home and had headphones on or something, they may not have been aware of the fire quickly enough."
Before the car reached their destination, Lauren's sister-in-law Lisa Hook called her to tell her to come back, the house was on fire.
Lauren says she can barely remember the drive back, other than they seemed to get caught behind every slow truck on the road, making the journey painfully slow. Once at the scene, "it was just so much worse than I had thought it would be".
The scene facing the family was one of complete devastation, with the house completely gutted by the fire.
"A lot of our family also came to the scene and that was good as they helped with the kids and getting information out."
Currently staying with Lisa in Stratford, Lauren says they want to stay in Stratford.
"The kids all go to the high school here, and we love the town. We've always said it is friendly, but these past few days have shown just how great the community is."
Lauren says she and David are grateful to all who have been helping them, saying the team at McDonald Real Estate have been great in particular as well as David's work who have given him the week off to deal with everything "and just generally been really supportive".
"All our friends have been so good too, people like Stacy and Linda Drummond have really gone all out to support us."
She says their insurance company has also been great to deal with.
Lauren says they have all been "completely overwhelmed" by the offers of help coming in from all around the community and further afield.
Lauren says the volume of messages has been so great they simply haven't been able to respond to everyone individually.
"We have had so many messages, texts, calls, people offering us all sorts of help. We really appreciate each and every person, and would like to thank everyone for their kindness."
The family's two cats have also survived the experience, with Pepper being found on the day and taken to the vets to be checked over for suspected smoke inhalation, while Poe ran off initially but was found the next day.
Lauren also has words of praise for the fire brigade volunteers who attended the scene.
"We are lucky to have a volunteer brigade in the town who were able to get there so quickly."
* Donations for the family can be dropped off to the Stratford Press office — 178 Broadway, or to The Hits Taranaki office in New Plymouth on Brougham St.
Alternatively there is a Givealittle page to help the family: