LEWISTON — Since a fire burned his Minot home on Christmas Day, Normand “Blackie” Labbe’s family has been working.

On Jan. 17, they razed the remnants of the family’s 200-year-old farmhouse. A week later, they poured the foundation for a new home.

Despite the bitter winter, Labbe’s five daughters and three sons became builders. While Normand and his wife, Jackie, wintered in Florida, their children, spouses and friends designed the house and did much of the carpentry, often while exposed to the cold and snow.

“It was unbelievable,” said Labbe, who glimpsed the house last week. He praised everyone who worked on it. “They went to work when it was 20 degrees below zero. They did a great, great job.”

More work is needed.

The house is on schedule to be finished in early May, right after Blackie’s 84th birthday.

But though the home was insured, it didn’t cover all costs, said Sandy Haley, one of Labbe’s daughters. So, folks are helping.

A recent drive raised more than $2,800 by selling images of the farmhouse and the words “Together We Support Our Community: Minot, Maine” on T-shirts.

And on Saturday, Blackie and Jackie will be the guests of honor at a benefit bean supper and silent action scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m. at Minot Consolidated School. Planners are hoping for as many as 500 guests.

Though such a crowd might be big for the town of 2,600 people, it’s reachable, organizer Karen Nichols said. Though many people in local towns may know the Labbes as the operators of Blackie’s Farm Fresh Produce in Auburn, the family is known for its generosity, too.

“I believe Blackie has paid it forward all his life,” Nichols said. “This is the first chance for so many people to give back.”

For decades, until just last year, Blackie and Jackie have given shelter to teens and young adults who needed a place to stay. They would stay for a night, a week or a month. For lending a hand at the farm, they had meals and a bed.

“It was like a safe haven,” said Nichols, a retired teacher from Minot.

Over the years, it’s unknown how many people were helped, Haley said.

“It happened all of my life,” said Haley, who is now 52. Her parents always found room, despite already having eight children. They shared a single bathroom.

Some people became like family. Many were thankful to the Labbes for a night or two of safety.

“It’s who my father and mother are,” Haley said.

Somebody who stopped for directions at dinnertime might be ushered in and offered a plate of food, she said. Classes of schoolchildren might show up to see the farm, and Jackie would cook until each one was fed.

It’s the way the family practiced the golden rule.

“My father told me to treat everyone as you would want to be treated,” Blackie said Tuesday. “I always tried.”

He said he has been overwhelmed by people since the fire.

“So many people have been so nice,” he said.

Nichols said she was uncertain how much money would be raised at Saturday’s event. The meal will include three kinds of beans, chop suey, coleslaw and lots of fixings. The cost of $7 for adults or $5 for kids will include a drink and homemade pie.

Attendees will be encouraged to bid on a slate of silent auction items, which include lots of restaurant gift certificates, craft goods, including handmade wood items and quilts and a few services. Among them are a delivery of loam and three months of trash pickup.

Nichols, who solicited donations, said several people who had nothing to donate volunteered cash for the Labbes.

“No one said no,” she said.


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