Brian and Chelsey Mandel and their four children, Landon, Tucker, Laura-Lea, and Montgomery, lost their home to a housefire on Friday in Milestone. Then, just six days later, the farm-based family spent their first night in a newly-furnished and fully-stocked home in a farmhouse close to their land.
Their friend, Meghan Stephenson, said everything came together within just a few days, thanks to the help of the entire community of Milestone and the surrounding area.
"It was incredible to see just the amount of support," she said. "The number of farmers who left the field to bring water trucks, water bottles, blankets, and food, was amazing."
She said when the EMS and Fire Department were on the scene, friends were there to help with the children.
"STARS did come, because the youngest did have minor injuries, and so he was taken to Regina and then he ended up going with mom to Edmonton," Stephenson shared, saying that since Chelsey was in Edmonton, she wasn't able to focus on what they'd need for their next dwelling space.
So, Meghan took charge and reached out to the community to see about helping her friends. This began with a post on the Garage Sale Milestone Facebook group.
"We started collecting clothes, so on Saturday I put a post out, and I had to stop it by Sunday because we had more than enough clothes already," she noted.
"Then we began the hunt for what house they were going to go to, and a local farmer in the community did have an empty farmhouse that they were able to offer up for the family to move into, and Monday we started getting info on what they needed."
Stephenson said that within two and a half days, they had a move-in ready home for the Mandels.
"We started cleaning early in the week, and there was nothing in there," she described. "So we stocked it to the brim. They have clothes in drawers, they have clothes in their closets. They have cupboards full of brand new Tupperware, crock pots, dishes, utensils, towels, a medicine cabinet, a full laundry room, games, toys, outdoor toys, bikes, and wagons. They literally came home to an entire full house."
For the Mandel family, however, this was a total surprise when they were able to move in on Thursday.
"They knew that we were getting a house set up, but until yesterday, they didn't know what they needed. They didn't know that we had people coming with drills and putting things together. We had a local farm family that the guys weren't in the field and they would just come and put beds together for us, and the crib, and do all the things that needed to be done, and so the family had to do none of it. They didn't know anything, really, other than they were coming home to a home."
"Milestone is a community that when something happens, they show up," said Stephenson, adding that donations for the family are set up through the Town Office.
"Hundreds of people reached out, and either donated clothing items or donated furniture, took over a room and said, 'I'm going to stock the entire bathroom'. We had people stock the entire pantry, the whole fridge. We had people doing everything, from young to old. Everybody."
"It's truly amazing what the community did and how they were able to just like make this a home right down to the decor," she celebrated. "There is decor in the living room. Dolls, LEGO, there's everything."
Stephenson noted that the donated items were either brand new or gently used, as, "we wanted to make sure that we gave the family a home that was simple but not overwhelming."
The new home is located within only a few miles of the Mandels' land, she said, which is important for a family whose mother makes everything from scratch.
"She does her own butter, her own cheese, her own everything. They very much live that great, simple, organic lifestyle and so it's such a blessing to see the community come together and be behind them."
The Mandels' youngest, Montgomery, is doing well, reported Stephenson. "He's in good spirits, I saw him yesterday, and he's just the cutest little thing, and he really is doing amazing."
"It is unfortunate, and it is really sad, to see somebody watch their home burn, and lose that, but on the other side of things, I know the family is grateful that everybody was safe, and was able to come away with minor injuries, and although there are sentimental things that they did lose, I think that they're coming away from it so grateful, and so thankful for the support of the community, as well as having their family to rebuild new memories."
"Without the help of everybody, it wouldn't have come together nearly as quickly and as smoothly as it did," she added. "I'm so grateful that I was blessed to be a part of it, and to be able to watch it unfold, and unfold as quickly as it did."
She said the Mandels spent their first night in their home last night.
"This morning [Chelsey's] message to me was, 'This was amazing. This is just so beautiful, and I'm just so grateful for the community that we live in, and the people that have our backs'. So, it was amazing to be a part of."