By Kai Vere
As her house was burning, Kristine Vandenberghe and her family stood outside in the pouring rain and heavy winds and waited.
They’d been told by Montague firefighters they should be able to get the fire under control.
After 20 minutes, one firefighter approached Vandenberghe and handed her a framed photo he’d taken from the burning house.
Vandenberghe looked closer. It was an old photo of her and her husband.
“I wonder if this means they won’t be able to save it after all,” she thought.
On Tuesday, April 17, the Vandenberghe family watched from a house across the street as their Bellevue home was reduced to ashes.
They lost the pictures on the walls and heirlooms passed down for generations.
They lost wedding rings and bands. They lost their family home along with the history they made in the 15 years they spent there.
But, they didn’t lose each other.
Kristine and Joseph Vandenberghe and their two daughters, Tamara and Robin, are all safe. Even their cat, OJ, made it out.
Vandenberghe said that’s all that really matters
“We were already a close family, but I think this will only bring us closer,” she said.
Since the fire at the more than 140-year-old house, the Vandenberghe family has attracted quite a bit of support from their community.
Staff from Holland College admissions organized a 50/50 fundraising effort and helped Vandenberghe access student union supports that are in place to help students in need.
“She’s got a big heart herself and she’d be the first person to step up to help anybody, so staff and students wanted to do the same for her,” said Melissa Josey, one of the organizers.
COWS, Veteran’s Affairs, Montague Regional High School and Stella’s Dining donated as well, and friends from the community reached out and found the family a furnished home to rent in Brudenell for the time being.
Vandenberghe said she’s grateful for the support her community has given her and her family.
“I’m not a Grinch, by any stretch. I have a big heart. But it definitely grew a thousand times,” she said.
Vandenberghe and her husband are the types to donate when others are in need, she said, but it’s hard being on the receiving end of it.
“Our turn will come when we’ll be helping someone again.”