GORHAM — Written in pencil on the wall just inside the front door of Town & Country Cabinets was the name of a couple, their phone number and a note.
“Have a garage,” it said.
Kathleen Gardner had stopped by Wednesday morning to offer her garage as storage space for any remnants of the cabinet shop that could be salvaged after a fire Tuesday severely damaged the building on Fort Hill Road.
Gardner, a neighbor of the shop, is among the dozens of people who have called, texted and visited since the fire, offering any help they can give to owner David Smith, a longtime Gorham resident and a well-known member of the farming community.
Several who came to help Smith on Wednesday said they’re simply returning a favor.
“He will drop everything to come help me,” said Jenn Grant, who lives across from Smith on Mighty Street, where they both have farms.
In the fall, she said, Smith brought her turkeys to the butcher shop after her son had a medical emergency. This winter, when a pipe burst in her barn during a snowstorm, he left his job to help her run new pipe so her animals could have water.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” said Grant, who helped pick through the rubble of the fire Wednesday morning.
An electrical short in an exhaust fan on the second floor started the fire. It ripped through one side of the building and left the other half covered with soot, charred wood and pieces of insulation.
Wednesday afternoon, friends and neighbors stacked slabs of wood to take out of the building. An excavator operator from Gorham Sand & Gravel was leaving for the day but promised to be back Thursday morning.
“It’s really nice to see everybody – I mean, everybody – down here,” said Smith, who noted that even his sister’s ex-husband took the day to help out.
“It frees me up to work on some of the logistical stuff,” he said.
Smith arranged for a structural engineer to survey the damage Thursday afternoon and determine whether the 19th-century building can be saved. Until then, he said, he won’t know his next step in getting back to the business his parents started in 1976.
“Hopefully they’re going to say, ‘Yes, it can be fixed,’ ” Smith said.
If the structure can be saved, he hopes to be building cabinets and custom furniture by the end of next month.
For now, a friend in the construction business plans to seal off the fire-damaged roof to protect the equipment in the building.
“We’ll be there to do as much as we can for him,” said Mark Cooper, who has known Smith and his wife, Holly, since the couple started dating in high school.
Cooper, a director of the Cumberland County Fair, knows Smith through farming and contracts with him on construction jobs.
“Any time we ask him for anything, he’s right there for us,” Cooper said.
At the time of the fire, he said, Smith was days away from finishing kitchen doors for a client of Cooper.
Cooper said he has never known Smith to get upset about anything, but Smith admitted Wednesday that it has been hard to stay upbeat.
“I try to be, but this is tough,” he said.
The fire and all of the logistical issues are coinciding with a hectic time on Smith’s farm, a couple of miles from the cabinet business. Two litters of piglets were due this week. One mother lost hers on Saturday, and the other gave birth Monday, Smith said.
In the past two months, his herd of sheep has birthed more than a dozen lambs. He discovered the latest one in the field Wednesday morning.
“It’s all at once,” he said.
Smith can barely manage to return calls from the people who want to help him.
“His phone kept going off today, big time,” said Grant, his neighbor.
Grant is involved in 4-H clubs with Smith, and has gotten her own slew of emails and phone calls from people in that community who want to know what they can do.
Smith, who’s 47, got active in 4-H when his now-grown children were young, and he has stayed with the program ever since.
He mainly teaches kids how to take care of their animals. He also helps to haul animals to fairs and clinics, makes house calls if the kids have questions, and teaches a woodworking class at an annual 4-H forum, said Mitch Mason, the 4-H youth development educator for the University of Maine’s Cumberland County Cooperative Extension.
“David’s one of those folks who’s always around, willing to volunteer,” Mason said.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: