The 12-year-old boy rescued from a burning home in Delhi earlier this month remains in the hospital while teenagers raise money for his family and another whose home was destroyed by fire this week.
The fires have hit the small community at its heart, said Elizabeth Gilbert, a computer teacher at Delhi High School.
Students in the school's community-service based Leo Club have started a drive to raise money for the families.
"We are hoping to get enough for them to move into another home or house," said Gilbert, club advisor. "Their biggest need is clothing and food on the table, so we will do a food drive and a household drive after they get moved in if we can get money for a down payment on a house or rent so they get get moving forward again."
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So far, she said the students have raised $80 for the Ojeda-Gonzalez family: a single mother, her mother, and her three children — a 12-year-old girl and two boys, 6 and 14. Gilbert said they were burned out of their home on Oak Street Tuesday. They are staying with a relative.
The Leo Club has raised $700 for the family of 12-year-old David La Jeunesse. He was home with his mother and 3-year-old sister Feb. 2 when, shortly before 1 p.m., an electrical socket caught fire and consumed a wall and then their home on the 16500 block of Letteau Avenue.
David's mother, Christina Rodriguez, had already sent his sister, Madisynn, to safety and was outside getting a hose when flames trapped David. Family blocked her from going back inside, her husband, Jeremy Rodriguez, 36, said.
He was at work. He said firefighters cut a hole in living-room wall into David's bedroom and pulled him out of a window.
He said his son has burns on 35 percent of his body, mostly on his back and the back of his legs.
"He was found lying face down," Rodriguez said. "If he wasn't, it would have been his face and his chest, so he was very smart."
Rodriguez said doctors took skin from David's lower abdomen and put it over the burned areas and that David is expected to be at Shriners Hospital in Sacramento another 35 to 45 days.
The family has been staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Sacramento. Rodriguez said David has been showered with letters from well wishers.
"Our community, friends and family — just everybody — has just been completely amazing," he said. "It is hard to be negative with such positivity around us. It has been overwhelming. We are just so thankful, and we want to thank them from the bottom of our heart."
He said the family is lucky to have insurance to cover the fire damage. After losing insurance because of a pool and a trampoline, the family had gotten a new policy a week before the fire, he said. "We're not sure if we are going to stay there," Rodriguez said. "We want to make the decision with (David) about whether he wants to go back or whether he will have some bad memories there."
Money given to the family, he said, would go toward rebuilding their lives, including clothing and items for their new home, wherever that is.
Those who wish to write to David La Jeunesse can mail letters to Shriners Hospital, 2425 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA, 95817.
Accounts to help the families are set up at Delhi Community Bank. Checks can be made out to the Leo Club either for the Rodriguez family or the Ojeda—Gonzalez family.