FREEPORT – Ask Anna Darby about all the help she and her family received from the Freeport community after their house on Griffin Road burned last winter, and she’ll begin rattling off touching examples, one after another.

Freeport Community Services, Morse Street School, Freeport High School, Region 10 Technical High School, the First Baptist Church and even people Darby met at convenience stores stepped up to help a family of six that had lost their split-level home and everything in it. In the middle of winter, Darby, her husband, Eyidi Ambila, and their four children needed food, clothes and shelter.

“There were just so many people and so many things that happened,” Darby said last week. “We were having a hard time keeping track of thank-you notes.”

Darby, Ambila and the four children Steven, 17; Seranna, 15; Tommy, 6; and Mariana, 4 have been renting an old farmhouse on Wardtown Road since early February. They hope to rebuild their home on Griffin Road, but are battling an insurance company for a compensation price, Darby said. Meanwhile, she continues as a stay-at-home mother, while her husband works as a guard at Seacoast Security in town.

Recently, Darby had the opportunity to give back a little for all the assistance her family has received. One of the family’s children had gone to summer camp through a scholarship offered by Freeport Community Services. Proceeds from the “Chowdah Challenge,” a Freeport Community Services fundraiser held at the Freeport Fall Festival on Oct. 4, just happen to help fund those very scholarships. As part of the challenge, people purchased homemade apple pies. Darby – who bakes apple pies ­– got a call asking if she would be willing to help, and responded with three home-baked pies. Freeport Community Services got $5 for each of the 18 pieces sold.

Darby also has volunteered at Morse Street School, and helps the elderly at her church, Freeport Baptist.

“It was the least I could do,” she said. “I kind of feel like there’s not enough that I can do, honestly.”

The fire began early on the morning of Jan. 15, in the bedroom of Darby’s15-year-old daughter, Seranna, who was awoken by the flames, caused by a space heater. The family made it out of the home safely.

While Ambila and the Rev. Sandy Williams, pastor at Freeport Baptist Church, watched helplessly as the house burned, Darby got the children into the family car. It was around 4:30 a.m.

“I didn’t want them to have to watch it, so we went out to get gas, at the Circle K station near (Interstate 295) exit 22,” Darby said. “There was a woman pumping gas and she came in to pay and overheard what I was saying about the fire. She went back out to her car, came back with a $50 bill and put it in my hand, and said, ‘God bless you.’”

The family then began getting “little pieces of help, every day,” Darby said. Staff at Morse Street School, where 5-year-old son Tommy goes to school, was among the first. A schoolmate’s mother dropped off bagels, coffee, clothing and an envelope full of money.

Darby gets a little teary when she mentions a gesture made by the students at Region 10 Technical High School in Brunswick, where Steven and other students with technical interests from Freeport High attend classes.

“The two girls from Region 10 presented us with an envelope and it was full of change,” she said. “They gave what they could. It touched my heart.”

Williams also brought money from the Baptist congregation.

“We needed everything – I made a big trip to Wal-Mart,” Darby recalled.

Williams also gave Darby something that wasn’t at first tangible, but would be soon. It a business card belonging to Melanie Sachs, executive director of Freeport Community Services.

“I called her,” Darby said. “She just let us in at the Thrift Store, and allowed us to get anything we wanted. That was awesome, for sure. It’s hard for teenagers to go into a thrift shop. We got above and beyond what we expected to get, and then she took us to the food pantry.”

Sachs said she wanted to give the family “the time and the peace” to shop for things they needed.

“Her whole family is wonderful,” Sachs said. “They were just warm and supportive of one another, in very stressful times. She’s mentioned several times the support she received from the community.”

The family spent two weeks in a hotel arranged for them by the Red Cross, then found the place to rent on Wardtown Road. They will stay there until they can afford to own a home again.

“We must look at the good,” Darby said. “It’s hard sometimes, but it’s outweighed the bad.”

Anna Darby brings homemade apple pies, fresh out of the oven, to the L.L. Bean Home Center for the Chowdah Challenge benefit for Freeport Community Services, held during the Freeport Fall Festival on Oct. 4. Freeport Community Services made a huge contribution to Darby and her family after they were burned out of their home last January, she said.  

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