Neighbors, strangers band together for displaced Hillcrest homeowner

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – After an elderly Hillcrest homeowner nearly lost her house in a fire, her community banded together to help get her back on her feet. Julia Collins and her family are starting to sort through debris, and are now finding out how much it will take to save their home. But during this heartbreaking process, they’re not alone.

Concerned neighbors and even total strangers have donated everything from furniture to funds, giving the family room to think about what comes next during this difficult time. 

Decorations adorn the home Julia Collins shares with her son, some of her favorite memories after more than 40 years. But on December 28th, those happy thoughts went up in smoke.

A fire broke out in an upstairs bedroom and although the home was saved, lasting damage made it unlivable. “[There was] a lot of water damage, particularly in the living room and bedroom,” Collins said. Neighbor Mary Boaz was one of the first on scene.

She lives a street over, and has known the Collins’ for years. “Julia, thankfully was safe and was sitting on the wall across the street with her dog,” Boaz remembered. “My initial focus was just ‘what does she need right now?’ and got her a cup of coffee and took care of the dog, and it just kind of blossomed from there.”

Boaz began posting on social media, calling on neighbors to pitch in. Because the home was uninsured, it left Collins and her son with nowhere left to go. Boaz started raising funds to help find Collins and her son a place to stay. “I just heard more and more about what had happened, what it was going to take to fix it,” said Boaz. So far, their rent and utilities have been covered for 5 months.

But the kindness of others doesn’t stop there. Boaz has received boxes of pots and pans, furniture, and more – all sent by neighbors looking to help. “Strangers have stepped up beyond what I could have believed,” she said. “It’s great.” For Collins, she’s starting to get back on her feet, and hopes to rebuild the place she’s lived for 45 years.

She also has a message for those that have opened their hearts, and have helped out after the unthinkable. 

“I don’t know what to say,” Collins said. “I’m just very grateful for what has happened.”

Julia and her son’s future is still uncertain. They plan on repairing their family home and moving back in, work that’s estimated to cost around $50,000.

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