CARTHAGE — A couple and their three children who lost their home in a fire last week were greeted Christmas Eve with truckloads of gifts and nearly $1,000 in cash donated by people in the area.

Chelsea Austin and Justin Jackson of Carthage, and their young children have been living with Jackson’s parents next door since the Dec. 21 fire leveled their mobile home on Route 142. It was insured. A state fire investigator determined the cause was a wood stove. 

Three days later, volunteers led by Heather Mills of Peru brought two pickup trucks and three SUVs loaded with gifts to the family.

“To be able to provide Christmas for a family in the capacity that we did was incredible,” Mills wrote on Facebook on Dec. 24. “We even had Santa to make today that much more magical for this family!”

“We’re very overwhelmed from all the love and support that friends, family and strangers have shown us,” Austin said. “It’s just been amazing. People are still reaching out to us. It shows that there’s still really good people and a lot of love in this world.”

A GoFundMe page organized by Courtney Flagg had surpassed the goal of $2,500 in pledges as of Friday.

Mills, daughter of Mexico Fire Chief Richard Jones and wife of Mexico firefighter Corey Mills, learned about the fire over Facebook. She said she believed people would come together to help this family.

“So I just put it out over Facebook and people said, ‘How can we help?’” she said. “I made a plan, and the community just brought the stuff to us. Words can’t express how grateful we are to be able to help them. This was a community effort.”

Mills said there is limited space to store all of the donations, so the Mexico Fire Station will remain a drop-off location for money and gift cards until Jan. 1.

She thanked all who made contributions and sorted and wrapped gifts.

“This is what Christmas is about, everyone pulling together to help others in need,” Mills said. “This is a Christmas I will never forget.”

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Chelsea Austin and Justin Jackson of Carthage, and their children, Quinn, Eloise and Brock, sit among gifts donated by people in the area after the family’s home burned Dec. 21. (Submitted photo)

Area residents gather at the Mexico Fire Station where truckloads of gifts were collected for a Carthage family whose home burned Dec. 21. From left, front row, are Cecilia Bradley with Peyton Mills, Maegin Taylor with Paisley Mills and Heather Mills with Piper Mills; back row, Kevin Bradley, Dave Saphier as Santa Claus, Ray Broomhall, Mexico Fire Chief Richard Jones and Corey Mills holding Pierce Mills. (Rumford Falls Times photo by Bruce Farrin)

Fire destroyed the home of Chelsea Austin and Justin Jackson and their three children Dec. 21 while they were away. A state fire investigator ruled the cause was a wood stove. The home was insured, Fire Chief Danny Skidgell said. (Submitted photo)


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