Fire-damaged parsonage to be rebuilt
by Jack Deming
Nov 16, 2013 | 2078 views | 0 0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An early-morning fire on July 22 destroyed the inside of the Jacksonville Community Church parsonage. The church is planning to raze the remains and build a new house.
An early-morning fire on July 22 destroyed the inside of the Jacksonville Community Church parsonage. The church is planning to raze the remains and build a new house.
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WHITINGHAM- Nearly five months after a fire destroyed the Jacksonville Community Church parsonage and left a family of six homeless, Pastor Doug LaPlante says the church is ready to take down the burned building and remove what he calls an eyesore from the village.

“Right now we’re planning on getting estimates from contractors to tear it down,” said LaPlante “We would like to have it torn down now before it gets too cold, and then begin rebuilding in the spring.”

At 2:30 am on July 22, an accidental electrical fire began near a window on the north side of the building. Dawn and John Meacham were able to escape along with their four children ages 11,10, 9, and 5 at the time, as well as the family dog. The house was a total loss, as well as the Meachems’ belongings, as the fire tore through the house and caused $80,000 in fire, smoke, and water damage.

LaPlante says the house will be rebuilt using money collected under the church’s fire insurance policy. Plans for the new home will be family friendly, including one and a half stories, with a gabled roof, three to four bedrooms, and one and a half bathrooms. The church plans to build an energy-efficient house, and to hire local contractors to complete destruction and construction.

“Our plans are simple,” said LaPlante. “It’s going to conform to the village, and while it’s not a historic district we don’t want it out of place. We’re just trying to replace the old house and keep the integrity of the community. Right now, it’s a sore thumb in the village and we need to keep the village looking good. We have a responsibility to do that.”

The Meachems were able to take refuge in Dawn’s sister’s house directly after the fire, but that house’s proximity to their burned-out home was tough on the family. Since then, the family has moved into a unit in Kingswood in West Dover where John works in construction, and is now planning to move to Wilmington for the winter.

Along with losing their possessions, all the moving within the past five months has been tough for the Meachems, but Dawn Meachem said that the flexibility of her children’s schools’ has helped, and school beginning two months ago helped her children return to some sense of normalcy.

“I told him (John) I will not unpack everything because I’m still nervous about something happening and losing everything once again,” said Meachem.

“But everyone has been helping and donating and giving their time for us. I just want to say thank you to everyone that has opened up their hearts and arms to us.”

This was not the first time LaPlante has dealt with a disaster. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene flooded the fellowship hall of Wilmington Baptist Church, where he also ministers. The church was uninsured for flooding and with mud replacing furniture in the hall, the church had to replace its possessions on its own dollar.

LaPlante says that while the parsonage construction is covered by insurance, it is just as important to rebuild as the fellowship hall, and an important part of Jacksonville Church.

“It’s important to have it available,” said LaPlante. “If I retire, we’ll need to bring a pastor in, and have a place for a family to live.”
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