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Hettinger community supporting family of 14 who lost everything to a house fire

Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 5:48 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A fire destroyed a home in Hettinger this weekend, leaving a family of 14 stranded just days before Christmas. But the small community is coming together to keep the Christmas spirit alive for a family who gives so much themselves.

All that remains of Diane and Russell Gonder’s home is the frame. However, in troubling times, communities come together.

“Oh this is when I was in a musical when I was in high school,” said Diane Gonder looking at burned pictures.

Diane Gonder tried to salvage any pictures she can.

“Should’ve never gotten rid of polaroids, they seem to be the only things that lasted,” said Diane Gonder to her youngest daughter.

On Sunday afternoon, she, her husband Russell, and eight of their children were visiting family in Dickinson when they received a call from an Adam’s County Sheriff’s Deputy.

“He called to make sure that we weren’t in the home because our neighbor placed the 911 call,” said Gonder.

“The house was fully engulfed and completely gone,” added Gonder.

For them, home was more than just a structure...it was a safe haven for four foster children the Gonders took in, along with her eight biological children. We were asked not to show the foster children’s faces.

As investigators sift through debris looking for answers. The small community shows how large their hearts are.

“Do you want any paper plates for right now?” asked Peacock Mercantile owner Pam Burch.

Pam Burch turned the backroom of her store, the Peacock Mercantile, into a donation spot.

“This is an opportunity and I know especially that, I’m getting choked up, but Diane and Russell would want to know that Jesus is taking care of them,” said Burch.

Pam also opened her home to the Gonders so they would have a place to celebrate Christmas.

“I’ve got the space and they were welcome immediately,” said Burch.

Although the materials can be replaced, Diane told us she believed the fire was a message from God.

The Gonders said it’s a miracle no one was hurt and perhaps a blessing in disguise as they now plan to build a bigger home so they can foster more children.

According to the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, it’s not known what caused the fire.

GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gonder-family?qid=ae0405bfdd90a2ee1ebd68274c44d2c1

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