As far as Melissa Lazzari is concerned, her Farmington family would not have had a Christmas if it wasn't for the surge of help and donations from the community after a Dec. 20 basement fire destroyed nearly all their Christmas presents and displaced them from their 48 Harold Rd. home.
"Our kids unwrapped amazing amounts of toys these people gave us," said Lazzari, the mother of four boys, Andrew and Johnathan, a preschooler and kindergartener, respectively, at the University of Hartford Magnet School, Nicholas, a fifth-grade student at in Farmington, and Alexander, a seventh-grade student at Irving A. Robbins Middle School in Farmington. "It took a long time."
Community Support on the Holidays
Avon Board of Education Chairwoman Peggy Roell, whose husband, Bill is scout master for Avon Boy Scout Troop 274, and Peter Kawa, assistant cub master for Avon Pack 122, .
"I can't even put it into words," Melissa Lazzari said. "They gave us hope and support. They saved our Christmas."
Kawa obtained the list of Christmas presents Lazzari had bought for the boys, along with a list of some basic necessities, on Dec. 21. Alexander Lazzari is in Avon Boy Scout Troop 274 and Nicholas is in Pack 122, as they used to live in Avon.
"There are so many instances where families needed help and the pack and troop pulled together to help," Lazzari said. "They're so close and amazing when it comes to support."
More than 50 families pitched in something, Roell said. That included backpacks filled with paper and crayons, board games, remote control cars, coloring books, a soccer ball, books, hats and clothes, to name a few. Kawa's son, Alex, even donated the $40 card he won as a reward for another Pack 122 fundraiser.
"I got fuzzy socks," Melissa Lazzari said. "I was so excited."
Farmington Social Services Department workers, who the Lazzaris got to know at Farmington's emergency shelter during the power outages following the October nor'easter, also gave the Lazzaris "two garbage bags full of gifts," a Highland Park Market gift card and holiday basket. They also paid for the Lazzaris to stay at the on Route 6 in Farmington over the weekend, so they'd have a place to sleep on Christmas.
"It's funny how it just circles right back around," Lazzari said.
The Lazzaris were able to salvage a Christmas tree that decorated the outside of their home, so they brought it to the apartment-style hotel room. Tuesday, the boys played with some of their toys, which were stored under and around the ornament-laden and angel-topped tree.
The Lazzaris also spent the holidays with family in West Hartford, Newington and Rocky Hill.
The nurse and principal at the University of Hartford Magnet School donated $300 in Walmart gift cards for basic necessities such as medicine and toothbrushes. The "coffee club moms" that Lazzari has coffee with on a weekly basis gave them a $100 Target gift card.
Nicholas Lazzari's teacher at West Woods, Kate Campbell, also gave the family some gift cards.
"I have never seen anything like this in my life," Melissa Lazzari said. "From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to each and everyone."
On Tuesday, Dec. 20, it was a different picture.
It was the first day of the "four days of Yule," a tradition the Lazzaris do annually leading up to Christmas, each son getting a day devoted to him. The kids make each other and their parents gifts. Each boy gets to pick the meal for his "Yule" day. Lazzari left the house at 1:30 p.m. that Tuesday and brought Andrew, Nicholas and Alexander to the doctor before going to Stop & Shop to get food for their family holiday. She and the boys returned to their home around 4:15 p.m. Nicholas went inside to use the bathroom and quickly bounded out yelling to his mom to call 9-1-1 after seeing some smoke.
Lazzari searched the house and initially found no sign of fire, until she saw that one of her kitchen vents was melted. Her first reaction was that the oil tank in her basement would explode. She and the kids rounded up their two huskies, Diamond and Sunshine, and their tabby cat, Shadow, and quickly drove to a neighbor's to call 9-1-1.
Four fire trucks came, but no flames were found because the fire went out on its own. Lazzari and her husband, Tony stood outside for over three-and-a-half hours as the firefighters and fire marshal were at work.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined.
The basement was completely destroyed, as was about 30 percent of the first floor. There was no sheet rock between the ceiling and insulation, which Lazzari said was flammable, so the fire spread there, but stopped a foot short of a cabinet full of paint thinners.
"The rest [of the house] was unbelievably smoke damaged," Lazzari said, who said an electrician visited the house on Tuesday to assist with the investigation of the cause of the fire.
It could take three-to-six months to repair the damage to the house, Lazzari said. The basement will need to be gutted and the home will also require new insulation and electrical wiring.
"We're hoping to save the framing of the walls," Lazzari said.
The Lazzaris have rented the single-family home for two years and now the concern is finding a place to stay until the home is habitable again. Finding a short-term lease will be a challenge, Lazzari said, and staying at the hotel on their dime is costly.
The family's cat is staying with them and the huskies are at in Canton in the meantime.