July 14, 2014

Free roof on Arlington home where blaze killed toddler helps with healing

The community has come together to rebuild the house belonging to Joe and Cindy Condron, who lost their granddaughter last year on her second birthday.

As roofers converged on the top of their fire-damaged home Monday, Joe and Cindy Condron took another step forward in their healing.

A little over a year ago, the couple’s lives were shattered when their 2-year-old granddaughter was killed in a fire. Repairs to their uninsured home, which sustained major damage, went undone until community groups stepped in to help.

Last month, the repair effort got a major boost when the family learned that it would get a new roof through the No Roof Left Behind program. The national program enlists local companies to provide new roofs at no cost to deserving homeowners in need.

“It’s just fantastic,” said Cindy Condron, who watched the work get underway with about 100 people from various groups that have become involved in the repair effort. “There’s no doubt it’s going to be a beautiful roof.”

Her husband said he was shocked to learn that his family had won the new roof. The work will probably take more than a week because workers must first replace wood that was damaged by the fire.

“The Lord has always given me the gift of gab,” Joe Condron said. “But when it was announced we had won a free roof, I was speechless.”

Lon Smith Roofing, which will build the roof, got involved with No Roof Left Behind in January, and this is the third roof it is installing as part of the program, said Scott Hamilton, vice president of sales.

The company, which has offices in Fort Worth, Dallas and Austin, chose the Condrons as one of four finalists from 30 nominees, he said. The public was then invited to read the finalists’ stories and vote online for their favorite.

The Condrons received 445 of the 600 votes, or about 80 percent.

“They won hands down,” Hamilton said.

The value of the roof is about $18,000, Hamilton said.

Support from the community has been a source of hope and healing for Joe and Cindy Condron since the fire swept through their north Arlington home June 2, 2013, killing their granddaughter, LilyAnn, on her second birthday.

Repairs did not begin for several months as they tried to overcome the emotional scars and figure out how to rebuild. John Thielman, a family friend and community leader, began making calls and found plenty of groups willing to help.

Thielman said he heard about No Roof Left Behind and decided to nominate the Condrons. When they became finalists, he began enlisting the help of churches and other groups to vote for the family.

He said that the help continues to pour in from many sources: restaurants that are donating some of their proceeds, contractors providing services for free or reduced cost and volunteer organizations that want to help with tasks such as landscaping and painting. He is hoping that the repair work will be complete by the end of October.

“I had faith, and I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to somebody on the spur of the moment, and boom, they’ve said yes,” Thielman said.

On Monday, many representatives from those groups gathered to watch the latest chapter in the home’s rebirth. They included firefighters who were the first responders.

“Any firefighter would tell you a fatality involving a child is the most difficult call we could run,” fire Capt. Eddy Saldivar said. “It’s good to know that the community is coming together and helping with the healing process.”

The Fire Department’s Random Acts of Kindness program has also worked on the rehabilitation of the home by helping to gut the interior so it can be rebuilt, said Battalion Chief Joe Morris, the program’s president.

“It helps them to see the healing,” he said of the firefighters working on the project. “It helps them actually move forward and see good things come out of bad circumstances.”

Young people also have been drawn to join the effort, including members of Sam Houston High School’s Key Club, who will help with landscaping. Senior Chinedu Akpom, 17, described the community outpouring to help the Condron family as “a beautiful thing.”

“If it was me, it would lift up my spirits,” he said.

Even though they are moving forward, the Condrons said they struggle with losing LilyAnn. LilyAnn’s mother, Joann Condron, who lives with her parents and was there at the time of the fire, continues to grieve deeply, they said.

On what would have been LilyAnn’s third birthday, the family visited her grave and released about 75 balloons and then had a birthday cake in her honor, Joe Condron said.

“The healing process is slow, but we are healing,” he said.

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